25 Romanian Tanka Poets, in Romanian and English

Introduction by Vasile Moldovan, translated by Magdalena Dale
Tanka poem penetrates in Romania even in modern state formation. In 1878, just one year after proclamation of the Independence, the princes Carol I has received two documents from a Japanese prince, one written with Latin letters (romanji), another one written with ideograms. These two documents contained, among other texts, tanka poems. To translate them, the young sovereign has resorted to Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu, world famous scientist, at that time director of states archives. Thus, the prince of Romania, which was proclaimed king later (1881), was the first tanka Romanian reader directly from Japan.

In 1902 is the year when establish diplomatic relations between Romania and thereafter held numerous conferences on Japanese civilization in which speakers refer often to the traditional Japanese poetry, especially tanka. Also in the first half of the 20th century, among 1902 – 1944 appeared scores of travel books written by the Romanian people who visited Japan. In some of these books there are chapters dedicated integral to tanka poems and their content is read today with the same interest.

In 1904 the magazine “Evenimentul literar” from Iași published the first essay about tanka poetry. In the same year was published the book “La gura sobei” (By the fireside) by Al. Vlahuță, one of the most popular poets of the age. The book includes a comprehensive study entitled “ Poezie și pictură japoneză” (Japanese poetry and painting) in which are quoted many tanka poems, translated from French by the author. Several years later, in 1819, the magazine “Bucovina literară” from Cernăuți has published a tanka sequence entitled “Flori orientale”, translated from German into Romanian. The translator, George Voevdica, himself a poet adapts Japanese poetry to the western poetry. So, in this translation tanka poems have rhythm, rhyme and titles: Clouds, Smiling death, Life, In vain, A girl say.

But first anthology of tanka “Cântecul curtezanelor nipone” (Japanese courtesans’ song) has appeared only in 1942. This appearance in time of war was possible because Romania and Japan was part of the same alliance. Selection and translation from French belongs to Al. T. Stamatiad, a known symbolist poet, who was received for translations of Japanese literature prize of the Romanian Academy. A year later, Stamatiad has published an extensive anthology of Japanese poetry, ”Eșarfe de mătase” (Silk scarves) the most representative tanka of 22 imperial anthologies, and haiku poems written by genre classics – Basho, Busson, Issa and Shiki.

After a hiatus caused by the political atmosphere in Romania, in the decade 1970-1980 appear three large anthologies translated from German. The principal translator, Ion Acsan, is now the honorary president of the Romanian Society of Haiku.

If haiku is written in our country since 1970, due anthologies mentioned, tanka is written since 1990 when the magazine of Romanian – Japanese relationship “Haiku” has appeared. Its editor Florin Vasiliu promoted in the same time haiku, tanka and the poem in a line, the last one being a solely Romanian creative. The first tanka book in Romanian was published by one of the collaborators of the “Haiku” magazine, Dumitru Ichim, resident in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. The book was published by the author in 1987 in Munich, Germany. It was reedited in Bucharest in 1993 at Publishing House APOLO, while tanka poems appeared more and more frequently in magazines “Haiku” and “Albatros”.

Around “Haiku” magazine was formed the first tanka poets. Here were published in the nineties the poetess Manuela Miga and Emilia Dumitrescu, the poets Dumitru Ifrim, Jules Cohn Botea and Vasile Smărăndescu (1932 – 2008) which has published three books of tanka all bilingual, Romanian and English: „Între lumină și umbră / Twixt light and shade” (Publishing House VIITORUL ROMÂNESC, Bucharest, 1999);” Luna ca o iscoadă / The Moon like a spy” (Publishing House ORION, Bucharest, 1999); “Cerul cu tot albastru / The sky filled with blue” (Publishing House SEMNE, Bucharest, 2000). To the end of his life, Vasile Smărăndescu had the joy to be published with his tanka poems in “Fire Pearls – Short masterpieces of the human heart”. Recently “Haiku” magazine promoted new authors of tanka: Vali Iancu, Adina Enăchescu, Ecaterina Neagoe.

Also, Ion Codrescu, founder and president (1992-2001) of the Haiku Society of Constanța promoted tanka poems in magazines Albatros and Hermitage. His successor, Laura Văceanu continues to support tanka poems. We noted that since 1992 poets from Constanța publish their poems in magazines and books both in Roumanian and English. Among tanka authors of Haiku Society of Constanța particularly remarkable are Radu Patrichi, Stela Moise, Alexandra Flora Munteanu and Ana Ruse.

The poet Șerban Codrin established the “School of tanka and renku” at 1 May 1995 – 1998. Up to the present is the single Romanian organization that has in its title the word tanka. Over several years the founder of this organization became the best known poet of tanka and renku in Romania. He published a large collection ‘”O sărbătoare a felinarelor stinse”(A fest of the Extinguished Street Lamps) (Publishing house STARTIPP, Slobozia, 1997) that he reprint subsequently much improved under the name ”Marea tăcere” (The Great Silence)(Publishing House STARTIPP. Slobozia, 2001). In my opinion”Grădina Zen” (Zen Garden) is the most valuable tanka sequence, that appeared originally as a booklet as a supplement issue of ”Orion” magazine. The sequence”Missa Requiem” is very original. As American poetess Jane Reichhold who transposed the Psalms of David in tanka, Șerban Codrin wrote the first Christian tanka poems in Romanian literature. Șerban Codrin’s tanka books were greatly appreciated but unfortunately they haven’t abroad the deserved echo because only a few was translated into English.

In the last years Romanian poets of tanka began to be known abroad. The beginning was made by Eduard Țară, who in 2003 received honorary mention for a tanka poem at The 4th Nihon Kajin Club International. Over three years, at the fifth edition of this prestigious competition the Romanian poet received the first prize for the following tanka:

The birds of passage
in this rainy afternoon
full of memories –
just an old toy boomerang
the last thing from my mother

Eduard Țară received a total of eight awards at tanka international competitions, on an average one in each year. Wining poems were written by the author directly in English or Catalan.

His example is followed by the other Romanian people. Magdalena Dale published in 2007 with Vasile Smărăndescu in „Fire Pearls – The Masterpieces of Human Heart”. Coincidence or not her book of debut has the title “Perle de rouă /Dew Pearls”. In the same year, all Magdalena Dale’s three tanka poems are awarded in the competition Tanka Splendor. Another merit of this Romanian poetess is to promote abroad a symbol of Romanian poetry – the lime tree. A tanka sequence from her book has this theme of lime tree. Here is one of her many tanka poems dedicated to the lime tree that became a symbol of love and yearning by Eminescu’s poetry, a Romanian national poet

This heavy wind
shakes the lime tree’s branches
a hundred droplets
near wintered flowers

She has also published with another poet a renku book “The fragrance of lime”.

And other poets are also known internationally: Maria Tirenescu writes more in French and Dana Maria Onica and Sonia Coman write in English.

We can have some conclusions. All tanka authors began by writing haiku. Together with Magdalena Dale looking for Romanian tanka poets to make a micro anthology of 25 poets, we found 40 Romanian tanka poets. So, ten percents of haiku authors are also tanka authors. On the Romanian literary sites the interest for tanka poems is growing and more Romanian poets try to write tanka even only in Romanian.

1) Cornelia Atanasiu

Neagra furtună
alunecă pe-o stâncă-n
covorul de mușchi.
Semeață floarea de colț
printre săbiile ierbii.

Dark tempest
slip on a rock in
a moss carpet.
The daring edelweiss
among the grass swords.

Translation: Magdalena Dale.
Credit: Corneliu, Atanasiu, editor. Caligrafiile clipei – antologia Societății Romane de Haiku. Bucureşti, Romania: Societății Romane de Haiku, 1999.

2) Jules Cohn Botea

Exista un loc
cu cerul mereu senin
la capăt de drum.
Trebuie sa crezi asta
doar așa îl poți găsi

There is this one place
where the sky is always clear
the end of the road.
You must truly believe this
in order to find it, too

Translation: Adrian Soloman.
Credit: Botea, Jules Cohn. Reverberatii / Reverberations. Bucureşti, Romania: ATAR, 2003.

3) Ion Codrescu

în timp ce dormi
noaptea se sfârşeşte—
scriu ultimul vers
la poemul despre
norul călător

while you sleep
the night ends
I am writing
the last line of the poem
about the wandering cloud

Translation: Ion Codrescu.
Credit: Mountain Voices. Ion Codrescu. UK: Ami-Net International Press, 2000.

4) Șerban Codrin

Numai cinci rânduri
ți-aș trimite odată
cu resemnare—
Ne-nstrăinează un cer
de stele căzătoare

Only five lines
I should send you
with resignation—
Only a sky of falling stars
keeps us apart

Translation: Alexandra Flora Munteanu.
Credit: Albatros. Vol. 6: 10/11. Constanta, Romania: Ex Ponto, 2007/2008.

5) Magdalena Dale

Clipă de clipă
secundele bat ritmul
unei melodii
dansatori fără voie
într-un vârtej anonim

Moment by moment
pendulum ticks the tempo
of a melody;
we are unwilling dancers
in an anonymous whirl

Translation: Magdalena Dale.
Credit: Fire Pearls: Short Masterpieces of the Human Heart. M. Kei, editor. Perryville, MD: Keibooks, 2006.

6) Florentina–Loredana Dănilă

Două singurătăţi
piscuri întunecate
şi soare-n apus—
de parcă n-ar fi de-ajuns
că a mai trecut un an

Two dark peaks
and our loneliness
in the twilight—
like it wouldn’t be enough
that another year has gone

Translation: Magdalena Dale.
Credit: Agonia – Ateliere Artistice. http://www.poezie.ro/index.php/poetry/13928773/Două_singurătăţi

7) Emilia Dumitrescu

frunze aurii—
se rotesc besmetic
a irosire
un clopot sună drept
din nou fiorul toamnei

golden leaves—
spinning uselessly
in vain
a bell sounds again
the autumn thrill

Translation: Alexandra Flora Munteanu.
Credit: Albatros. Vol. 1 (4). Constanta, Romania: Ex Ponto, 2005.

8) Adina Enăchescu

Caleea Lactee
răsună sub tălpile
dulcilor îngeri—
Sub clar de lună plină
dormeau toate apele

The Milky Way
sounds under the toes
of sweet angels—
Under full moon clear
all the waters slept

Translation: Vasile Moldovan.
Credit: Albatros No. 12/13. Constanta, Romania: Ex Ponto, 2009.

9) Vali Iancu

Cerul plumburiu—
vântul smulge furios
rădăcini și crengi.
În mașina Salvării
primul țipăt al vieții.

Murky sky
the high wind tears
roots and branches
In the ambulance
the first cry of life.

Translation: Vasile Moldovan.
Credit: Haiku – Magazine of Romanian – Japanese relationships. No. 35. Bucureşti, Romania: Verus, 2006

10) Clelia Ifrim

Pasărea mătăsii
În scrierea de mână—
Drum spre albastrul sud.
Cu el voi aduna ucrurile mării
și apa de acasă

Birds on silk
Painted by hand—
A way to the blue south.
With it I’ll gather sea things
And the waters of home.

Translation: Clelia Ifrim, Magdalena Dale, M. Kei.
Credit: Lynx, a journal for Linking Poets 12:3. Gualala, CA: Aha Books, October, 1997.

11) Dumitru D. Ifrim

Atâta liniște
În jurul meu . . .
Un crab pierdut în valuri
Trage undița
În mijlocul râului

Around me
so much quietness . . .
a carp lost in the waves
drags the fishing line
in the middle of the river

Translation: Dumitru. D. Ifrim.
Credit: Ifrim, Dumitru D. Our Window. Bucureşti, Romania: ed. Universitara, 2009.

12) Manuela Miga

De ziua ta
nu am nimic să-ţi ofer.
Mai târziu, poate,
vei afla c-am scris nişte
poeme de dragoste.

For your birthday
I have nothing to offer you.
Maybe, later on,
you will be told I wrote
a few love poems.

Translation: Manuela Miga.
Credit: Miga, Manuela. Nud cu anturium/ Nu a anthurium/ Nude with anthurium. Bucureşti, Romania: Manuela Miga, 1999. ISBN 973-0-00809-4

13) Vasile Moldovan

amurg liniștit:
prin fereastra zăbrelita
a vechii temnițe,
trag cu coada ochiului
la zborul cocorilor

serene twilight:
through the latticed window
of the old prison,
I watch with corners of my eye
the departure of the cranes

Translation: Vasile Moldovan.
Credit: Atlas Poetica : A Journal of Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka. Baltimore, MD: MET Press, Spring 2008.

14) Radu Patrichi

Furtuna toamnei
în satul de vacanță
a culcat doi plopi—
la fel ca și oamenii
nu toți rezistă la greu.

In the holiday village
the autumn tempest
throws down two poplar trees—
the people
don’t pass the test, either.

Translation: Vasile Moldovan.
Credit: Haiku – Magazine of Romanian – Japanese Relationships. Nr. 40. Bucureşti, Romania: Verus, 2008

15) Paula Romanescu

Pe cer cocoare
în crânguri desfrunzite
și vânăt vântul
eu trec sub cerul lumii
umbră printre cuvinte

Cranes in the sky
and a dark wind in
the leafless groves
I passed under the world sky
shadow among the words

Translation: Adina Romanescu.
Credit: Micul Orion. Ialomita, Slobozia, Romania: Ionel Perlea UNESCO, 1996.

16) Dumitru Roșu

Pe țărmul nipon
Haiku – pasăre Phoenix,
salvată din foc;
ca o vioară cântă
sufletul meu renăscut

On Nippon border
flies a Phoenix bird – Haiku,
now saved from the fire;
like a violin
my reborn soul is singing

Translation: Dumitru Roșu.
Credit: Haiku – Magazine of Romanian – Japanese Relationships, Nr. 37. Bucureşti, Romania: Verus, 2007.

17) Ana Ruse

Se ofileşte
garoafa primită-n dar
la despărţire.
Câte trenuri trec prin gară
în nici unul nu eşti tu!

It withers
the carnation received but
still the separation.
How many trains pass through the station
without you.

Translation: Magdalena Dale.
Credit: Haiku – Magazine of Romanian – Japanese relationships. No. 31. Bucureşti, Romania: Verus, 2004.

18) Cristina Rusu

frânturi de raze
luna strânge tăcerea
din visul ierbii—
în inima pădurii
rătăcit puiul de cerb

pieces of rays
the moon gathering silence
from dream grass—
in the heart of the forest
a lost baby deer

Translation: Magdalena Dale.
Credit: Agonia – Ateliere Artistice. http://www.agonia.ro/index.php/poetry/210999/T%C4%83ceri

19) Vasile Smărăndescu

ridic ciutura
să strâng cu mâna căuș
stele bob cu bob –
când vii la ceas de taină
le prefir în calea ta

water in the well
with my palm I skim the pail
to catch stars one by one—
when in the night you visit
I scatter them before you

Translation: Dana Dima.
Credit: Fire Pearls: Short Masterpieces of the Human Heart. M. Kei, editor. Perryville, MD: Keibooks, 2006.

20) Mircea Teculescu

iedera urcă
pe crucea bunicilor
undeva în câmp—
aprinzând lumânări
umbrele prind viaţă

the ivy climbs
on my grandparents cross
somewhere in the field—
kindled candles
shadows come to life

Translation: Alexandra Flora Munteanu.
Credit: Albatros, Nr. 2/1 (5-6). Constanta, Romania: Ex Ponto, 2005/2006, toamnă/iarnă, anul XIII, serie nouă.

21) Ștefan Gh. Theodoru

S-a pornit vântul—
valsând, câte o floare
își frânge tija.
S-au întâlnit doi fluturi
pe același trandafir

A breath of wind—
some flowers dancing a waltz
bent their stems.
Two butterfly met
on the same rose

Translation: Magdalena Dale.
Credit: Haiku – Magazine of Romanian – Japanese relationships. Nr. 35. Bucureşti, Romania: Verus, 2006.

22) Maria Tirenescu

Seară de toamnă
Luna privește
prin arțar.
Singură la fereastră
îmi amintesc chipul tău

Autumn dusk
The full moon watching
through the maple tree
Alone at the window
I remember your face

Translation: Vasile Moldovan.
Credit: Haiku – Magazine of Romanian – Japanese Relationships. No. 40. Bucureşti, Romania: Verus, 2008.

23) Eduard Țara

În tăcere adâncă
o distinsă vioară
printre vechituri—
vânzătorul aşează
pe corzi umbra crinului

In deep silence
a distinguished violin
at the flea market—
the seller arranging
the strings in the lily’s shadow

Translation: Eduard Țară, Magdalena Dale, M. Kei.
Credit: Haiku – Magazine of Romanian – Japanese Relationships. No. 32. Bucureşti, Romania: Verus, 2004.

24) Florin Vasiliu

Vulcanul nopții
Zvârlind toamna șoaptelor
Pe-un solfegiu șchiop—
Un lan de greieri nebuni
Forfecând știrb cosmosul

Night volcano
Spouts autumn whispers
In a soft solfeggio—
A field of crazy crickets
Splits the cosmos without teeth

Translation: Magdalena Dale.
Credit: Haiku – Magazine of Romanian – Japanese relationships. Nr. 18-19 Bucureşti, Romania: Verus, 1998.

25) Laura Văceanu

Noapte la țară
Moțăie-n salcâmi
Curci și găini –
Luna-și face loc
Printre corcodușe

Country night
Turkeys and chickens
Doze in the acacia—
The moon has his place
Among the sour cherries

Translation: Magdalena Dale.
Credit: Haiku – Magazine of Romanian – Japanese relationships. No. 28. Bucureşti, Romania: Verus, 2002.

© 2010

Please also read Romanian Tanka Poets, Volume 2