song for Agriope

sounds were rising –

chrysalides for the yet unborn

crystalline shivers…

still were the waters,

undead the moonlight –

and aerial was the calling

of the sound-bender…

and all were silent…

Elysium bowed

under salty heaviness

and doubled up with pain,

unallowed to rebirth the lost

yet sounds kept rising –

chrysalides breaking

tracing furrows

in the molten souls that were

listening…

unshed fire caressed

crimson and black and golden

and hearts were born

where there had been none

and all were crying…

rocks blossomed under

the taming ether

exposing the bones of

ancient rainbows

and sounds kept rising –

chrysalides blooming

mourning the morning

never to come…

*Author’s note: for those not knowing it, Agriope is the other name of Euridice, Orfeu’s beloved wife :).

© 2017, Liliana Negoi

Feathery Song

1. The story I’m about to tell,
is much like that of Beast and Belle,
except in mine she was the bête
who made all those who saw her sweat.
So take your drinks and gather round,
and hush – make not another sound
but listen to the tale of old
remained, until tonight, untold.
***
2. Lang syne, in some forgotten land,
under a mighty king’s command,
up on a mountain, close to skies,
there lived a hermit, old and wise.
He spoke to animals and trees,
to stars and to the evening breeze,
he fed on berries, mushrooms, nuts,
and slept in leafage-woven huts.

3. One morning, in a glade, he found
a stranded hamper, small and round.
Within it, to his own surprise,
he heard a newborn baby’s cries,
so shyly he approached the creel
to hush the little baby’s squeal,
but when he looked inside, he winced
dismayed by what he saw, convinced

4. that only hell itself could birth
such horror on the face of earth:
a shapeless face, with just one eye…
an askew mouth…and limbs so wry
that one could hardly deem them arms…
or legs…not one of infants’ charms…
The hermit wished to run away
but felt within that he should stay –

5. the cries had stopped. The little freak
just stared at him, so small and weak,
and suddenly the hermit’s heart
was thawed, his fears were torn apart.
He leaned over the baby’s nest,
he looked at her, her face caressed
and took her in his arms – next thing
a bird above began to sing.

6. The hermit took the child along
and nursed her, taught her right and wrong,
he fed her, dressed her, raised her well
forgetting of her ugly shell.
The girl grew up, became mature,
her heart so wonderfully pure,
her singing voice unearthly fair,
but looking worse than devil’s heir.

7. One day, aware his end was near,
the hermit called his daughter dear
and told her all: how she’d been found
within that basket on the ground,
how wrongfully afraid he’d been
‘cause of the ugliness he’d seen,
and how his whole life had been graced
by her existence, soft and chaste.

8. He also told her he would die,
and that the scythe of death was nigh,
that she should leave the mountain side
and find a convent where to hide –
you see, the hermit knew too well
that only nuns would not expel
a being such as her, and hence
he wished to shield her from offence.

9. But lassie here was also wise,
and past the hermit’s swift demise
she sewed herself a feathered mask,
determined, should the people ask,
to tell them she would not expose
her face but to the one who chose
to see her soul and not her face,
her heart, and not her earthly case.

10. So down the mountain then she went
and many days indeed she spent
well hidden by the mask she’d made,
but found that people were afraid
to look behind it. Not just once
they acted like some worthless dunce
and sneered at her in vicious ways,
harassing her for nights and days.

11. She kept on trying for a while
despite them being crude and vile,
she hoped they’d change and understand,
but saw she wasted precious sand
on bootless actions. By and by,
too disappointed by her try,
she chose to shut herself within
an old abandoned wooden inn.

12. She locked the gates behind her, cried
and swore to never go outside
again, as long as she would live –
to not forget, and not forgive.
Her heartache slowly grew, and grew,
her faith grew weak, her hope did too,
and only sometimes, in the night,
she sang again, to soothe her blight.

13. Through years, the people from around
bore rumors of the charming sound
that flew, sometimes, towards the skies,
but no one knew who sang, surmis-
ing that there really must have been
some angel from above, unseen,
and oft, the people all night long
stood up, to listen to the song.
***
14. Along the river shores, back then,
there used to walk a blind young man
aside a dog. The folk he passed
by pitied him, sometimes they cast
an eye over the clothes he wore,
for he seemed noble to the core
when talking, but was dressed in tat –
so what could someone make of that?!

15. He heard, like any other chuff,
that song, and one time was enough
for him to wish to find the one
whose voice was like a midnight sun.
So every night the voice would sing
he drew up closer to its spring,
helped by his dog – and whereupon
before the inn he stood one dawn.

16. He knocked, and called, and begged, and prayed,
and at those gates he waited, stayed,
he listened, doubted, hoped and feared,
until one day the girl appeared,
the mask upon her face again.
She looked at him all silent, then
she asked him what he wished to speak.
He said: “It’s you the one I seek.

17. I know it’s you who sings at night,
though, as you see, I have no sight.
I have no knowledge of your name
it wouldn’t matter all the same
if I knew that. I also won’t
attempt to lie to you – I don’t
have money, riches, treasures, gold.
I had them once, but then I sold

18. entirely my wealth, and spent
up to the last dime when I went
all blind. So, as you see, I’m poor.
The only blessing and, for sure,
the only friend I have as yet,
is this old dog. So please, don’t fret!
The only thing I want would be
for you to let me stay with thee!

19. I only need a nook to sleep
and that the dog you let me keep.
You need not worry ‘bout my bread
or anything at all. Instead,
I want to listen to your voice
whenever singing is your choice –
because, you see, it’s in your sound
that I my bliss in life have found!”

20. She let him say his say, all still,
while he appealed for her goodwill,
and when he finished she replied:
“Do you, at least, know why I hide?!
I’ve been rejected by the folk.
In front of me they simply choke
because I’m ugly. I’m a freak!
They fear so much they cannot speak

21. a word to me. So after tries
and tries while being in disguise,
I realized I couldn’t live
‘mongst ones who’ve nothing else to give
than hate and scorn and wickedness.
They value much the face and dress
and I have none of those. So why
should I believe that you don’t lie?!”

22. “Some can be sly – but don’t you see
How beautiful you are to me?!
Cannot you tell, from all you’ve seen,
That I’m as true as they are mean?
I have no eyes to view your face.
To me your song’s the only grace
I need to deem you queen of mine,
as bright as all the stars that shine.

23. I do not care what people say.
You’re ugly?! How much fairer they?!
You’re poor?! How rich their empty souls?
How maggoty their social roles?
You’re free to cast me out, I know.
I have no other way to show
that what I say to you’s sincere.
I can but hope you’ll keep me near.”

24. Persuaded by his strong resolve
she thought that things may not evolve
as badly as she held first glance,
and brought herself to take her chance.
A while it all unfolded well,
at least from what they both could tell –
they ate together, talked and laughed
she sang, he knit the words with craft,

25. they seemed to dovetail, all in all.
But one day, something did befall:
at dawn, when getting up from bed
upon his eyes a warm light spread,
and suddenly he came aware
that he could see again quite fair,
and ran to her without delay.
Alas though! to his own dismay,

26. she wore no mask when he came in.
He felt the earth around him spin
and though he feigned detachment, she
could feel his nausea flowing free.
She smiled a bitter smile to him,
aware his love was growing dim,
then turned and left him in that room
and walked away. Despite the gloom,

27. she somehow felt she’d been released,
freed from the bane to be a beast.
A sudden calm laid hold of her
and all the prior acrid stir
dissolved within a moment’s flight.
She sensed that things were setting right,
and then a little voice inside
spoke soft that no more she should hide.

28. She donned her mask and hat and coat
and on a piece of paper wrote
a line or two, to let him know
the vicinage where she might go.
Then out the door she went, aware
that people all around would stare
with awkward eyes – for how could they
ignore her presence in their way?

29. They could, to say the very least,
refer to “beauty and the beast”
when whispering of “him” and “her” –
how could they not?…A subtle blur
wrapped up her gaze…She felt the sting
of doubt…but more than anything,
she knew she had to face her fears
and take that step. Too many years

30. had passed since she had hid behind
those walls, so that no one could find
the path towards her wounded core…
But she won’t hide there anymore.
So, hoping he would understand,
she firmly took herself in hand
and slowly walked outside the door –
so says the tale from times of yore.

31. She paced with measured steps the trail
that led to people in that vale,
ignoring bushes, shrubs and trees,
the birds, the sun and morning’s breeze.
Her heartbeats knotted in her throat,
she wrapped up better in her coat,
pretending that the thrills she sensed
were just her flesh’s thrust against

32. the early hour’s frost. Quite soon
the path with painful flashbacks strewn
enwidened at the hamlet’s gate.
Another step…the seconds’ weight
felt like a rock upon her chest.
The memories she had repressed
were coming back to life again –
the people’s horror and disdain

33. though passed, kept harrowing her soul.
She stepped again…her body whole
refused to move ahead. She sighed,
she blinked to push the haze aside
and stepped inside the village. Then,
in front of her, a few old men
put down their work and raised their eyes
to look at her with raw surprise.

34. Around her, space began to form.
Just like the calm before a storm
the people fixed her, silent, cold,
since there was nothing to be told
to hide how they could not but feel.
Each glance of theirs – a new ordeal…
She slowly walked amidst the crowd,
their glares as sombre as a shroud,

35. and then she wanted to discard
the mask. Her figure, sorely marred,
appeared then in the morning’s light,
but thrilled with horror at her sight,
the peasants cringed away from her
and in the middle of the stir
they tried to knock her down. Appalled,
she ebbed away, then fell and crawled

36. unable to resist their thrust.
But when her blood caressed the dust
she turned her gaze towards the sky
and mutely prayed that she would die
thus being spared the slashing pain.
And lo! Her plea was not in vain,
for in the very eyes of men
she changed into a bird, and then

37. she flew into the forest’s shade.
The people, suddenly afraid
of what they did, fled from the place
and ran towards their homes apace.
An awkward silence grew instead,
and on the ground, now stained with red,
as if to mark the very spot,
remained the mask as bloody blot.
***
38. Back at the inn, and later on,
our lad, when seeing she’d been gone,
felt guilty and ashamed again
when grasping the amount of pain
he’d brought on her. Abashed and bleak
he quickly went outside to seek
her out, he searched the place around,
but she was nowhere to be found.

39. Aggrieved about her having left,
among the trees he rushed bereft
and shortly reached inside the vill.
Along his spine an icy thrill
crept snakishly and made him twirl
and all his thoughts began to swirl
when finding fallen on the ground
the feathered mask she’d worn around.

40. That moment knowledge came to him
that something violently grim
must have occurred.. He looked about
and saw that people didn’t flout
the way they usually did.
Behind each wooden window grid
he noticed eyes that mirrored fear,
and what had passed was all too clear.

41. He threw a silent awful glare
and turned his back on them, aware
that if he were to find her trace
into the woods he’d have to pace.
So wasting not another blink
he parted and began to sink
into the thicket. Off and on
he peered at heavens, pale and wan,

42. foreboding that by even fall
she would be lost for good and all.
Eventually in a glade
he ceased his wandering and stayed,
he looked around again, he sighed
and on his face the mask he tied
to feel her closer. Then, with woe,
he voiced his overwhelming throe:

43. “I know I failed you! I was wrong
to put my fears above your song!
I erred – but now I want to mend!
From now my faith no more will bend!
So please, forgive me and return!
I know your trust I’ll have to earn,
so one more chance I ask of you
to prove myself as being true!”

44. But nothing happened…not a sound
among the trees or on the ground.
A heavy silence shrouded him
and sorrow filled him to the brim,
for time was passing, hope was frail,
his efforts seemed of no avail,
and night was almost there. Resigned,
he wished he could again go blind

45. for although now his eyes could see
his heart was left without its glee
and life seemed hollow, mean and bare,
so to the sky he raised his prayer
to be with her, whatever cost
he’d have to pay, for he felt lost
without her being to the fore –
his heart was bleak, his soul was sore.

46. All of a sudden, in an oak
a small bird perched whereas he spoke.
While he beheld it there aloft
a tender feeling, warm and soft,
took hold of him, and he inferred
that what he saw as tiny bird
could only be his lady fair
who called his presence in the air.

47. He started humming low, arose
and felt a tingling in his toes,
but wouldn’t let her out of sight
for fear she’d vanish in the night.
While moving closer to the tree
the tingling spread within one knee
and then the other one, and soon
amazement made his murmur swoon:

48. a pair of wings, quite small but strong,
replaced his arms. As for his song,
it turned into a splendid lay
that spoke of love fallen astray.
The forest hadn’t heard before
a trill so moving to the core,
and nature hushed to lend its ears
to yonder sound of woe and tears.

49. As night grew deeper, through the gloom
the only thing that bode in bloom
remained that ever richer song,
which filled the forest all night long.
At dawn the sun caressed the trees.
The morning wind – a playful tease –
found not one trace of man or bird
and no more song could there be heard.

50. Since then, the people from that site
could only hear the song at night.
The tale was wiped out from their mind –
the ugly girl and young man blind
remained just “dreams within a dream”
both real and fake, as it may seem.
As for the bird within our tale,
we call it simply “nightingale”.

© 2017, Liliana Negoi

The Presence of Sound

Outside it’s raining (it’s been raining a lot around here lately actually) and my fingers run on the computer keyboard while in the background Yo-Yo Ma is performing miracles on his cello with Bach’s suites. I cannot hold back a melancholic smile, remembering a part of my youth which I put aside for the past ten years, but which lately keeps bugging me to revive it – some of you may know that I used to play the piano years ago, but few know also that at some point I decided to give up music and literally sold my piano.

However, I can’t help missing the flow of feelings through my being while my fingers used to play fragments of the souls of Bach, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, Mozart, Beethoven, Prokofiev and so many others. As I told a friend of mine at some point, there are moments when the vibration of a piano chord is enough to bring tears into my eyes.

Therefore, today I’m talking to you about music, about this splendid, but still far from being completely understood, part of our life. For what is music, after all? What happens to us when we listen, almost as in trance, to the organized sounds played or sung by someone? Be it classic or modern, vocal or instrumental, music always fascinated people, and they never ceased to strive to comprehend and conquer its amazing language, without realizing that it was the language that was conquering them, and not the other way around. Men tried to subdue this world of the sound, tried to impose rules to it, tried to fit it into shapes, forms, organized it in systems based on various criteria, but in the end, no matter if the rules are respected, if the form is an old or a new one, music transcends all the artificial organization and we find ourselves completely ecstatic in the presence of sounds. Music conquers us, and once it does so, it owns us for life, whether we’re aware of that or not. Why? I don’t know. Some say it’s because music is the language of God. Others say it’s because the frequencies of music resonate with our own frequencies. But does it really matter? The truth is, no, it doesn’t. Music simply governs our hearts, in one of the most splendid ways possible.

Yes, music owns me. It always did. It always will. And I’m grateful for that :).

© 2017, Liliana Negoi

Translating Words into/from Music

This post is actually an experiment. In my work as a translator there is something done sometimes called “back-translation”, which means that you translate a text from a language into another, and then the text is translated back into the original language, in order to see the degree of change suffered by the message due to the process of translating it.
In the following lines, what I did was to take the “translation” into music of Louis Bertrand’s “Scarbo” from his amazing “Gaspard de la nuit”, done by Ravel, and I translated it back from the language of music into that of words, using for that my own perception of Ravel’s splendid fantasy. The original text is this:

SCARBO.

Il regarda sous le lit, dans la
cheminée, dans le bahut;–personne.
Il ne put comprendre par où il s’était
introduit, par où il s’était évadé.

HOFFMANN.–_Contes nocturnes_.

Oh! que de fois je l’ai entendu et vu, Scarbo, lorsqu’à minuit la lune
brille dans le ciel comme un écu d’argent sur une bannière d’azur semée
d’abeilles d’or!

Que de fois j’ai entendu bourdonner son rire dans l’ombre de mon alcôve,
et grincer son ongle sur la soie des courtines de mon lit!

Que de fois je l’ai vu descendre du plancher, pirouetter sur un pied et
rouler par la chambre comme le fuseau tombé de la quenouille d’une
sorcière.

Le croyais-je alors évanoui? le nain grandissait entre la lune et moi,
comme le clocher d’une cathédrale gothique, un grelot d’or en branle à
son bonnet pointu!

Mais bientôt son corps bleuissait, diaphane comme la cire d’une bougie,
son visage blémissait comme la cire d’un lumignon,–et soudain il
s’éteignait.

The piece of music into which it was “translated” and from which I translated it back is the following, in the exquisite interpretation of Valentina Lisitsa.

Scarbo

 

keys
wake up
slowly,
moving like
zombie puppets –
don’t you see? –
they tremble, shiver,
your prancing hurts
their silence,
your laughter bursts much
too heavy for them –
they crash,
commanded to insanity by your frenzy,
fiend jumping – cavorting –
pinching night’s folds and knitting braids from breaths of wind
only to snap with them against sweating walls –
it’s black where you come from –
twisted, mind grabs bits of reality and
shoves them all together
in a bucket of tenebrae –
grim is your touch, swirling within night’s guts,
caustic – your whisper chars the shadows –
it’s dark and slimy where you come from –
your name cloaks inside it
the same slur and vertigo as that
from inside the heart of fear –
strings vomit sounds contorted just like your limbs,
you toss and turn the coins of fate
and upside down the room spins,
keys scream, sounds twitch
and uncontrollable bursts of hysteria erase
the purity of darkness –
sounds freezing their way up to the ears
lash the very shell
meant to shelter their terror,
shades of your grin bend,
like darkling tentacles,
all over the mesh of phantasms
and flesh shudders under the whip of your wicked games –
it’s gloomy and frightful where you come from,
black gnome,
Scarbo, you, who hold on the ring of your name
the keys of fears…

© 2017, Liliana Negoi

prints

.

put your palm on the ground,
press it
until you feel the dirt filling
the space between your fingers,
your striations,
even your pores.
now take it away,
look at that print
and leave.
that print, filled with your gaze,
will have been,
in its (no matter how short) existence,
no less precious or important
than any random word
thrown to a random stranger
on a random day.

© 2017, Liliana Negoi

growth

it used to be simple.

filiform roots spread gingerly,
conquering soil with a tender patience
and smoothing away the dust
grain by grain
in search for water veins.

earth breathed around them,
the odor of the jungle flowing thickly
through the vegetal fragility raking it –
bold filaments
meant to sagely braid themselves
into future wooden snakes
crossing the undergrounds of the forest.

above them eyes blinked,
growing faces and legs,
growing mouths,
hungry mouths and teeth,
perfect fangs,
to which foliage was but a place to lurch,
a momentary den.

sometimes, roots tasted blood,
earth became spongy and red
and satiated beasts catnapped on the bed of stained herbs –
but roots didn’t mind.

lately though,
what water carries with it
is the acid mind of the clay,
burning its path through fangs and eyes and roots
and coagulating life in its very amnios.

it’s not simple anymore.

© 2017, Liliana Negoi

what remains after a tree

and yet, what remains after a tree?
sometimes a root
sometimes a snag
sometimes the sorrow of the grass deprived of shade
sometimes more sky but less blue
sometimes more flight and less rest
sometimes just emptiness

© 2017, Liliana Negoi

Don’t Let Fall Go – sonnet

.

Don’t sweep the fallen leaves, don’t wipe your tears,
don’t let this autumn pass a dream too soon,
don’t mix the joy of yellow with your fears
that it will fade, however, until noon.
Don’t let the scent of misty dawns go wasted
and let the drizzle soak in tired flow
the dust of summer days, that maybe hasted
so you can also feel the autumn’s glow.
For winter’s frost is nigh, and even nigher
the rust that eats the handle of this door
and swallows flying swiftly ever higher
next spring may not recall us anymore.
So don’t allow the sand to flow too fast –
don’t let your fall beside me be our last.

© 2017, Liliana Negoi

levels

once upon a chapter
i was

rubbing your parched lips with sand
while date-trees shadowed your masochism.
you kept asking for water
with a raucous voice,

and camels ignored us.

you died in my arms then,
smearing my cheek with your last breath
and naming me Maya

and i sieved my sand over you
to hide your corpse from vultures.

the next mouldy morning
you grew through me
branching

into basic elements
you split me
seeking my water

ignoring the camels.

you planted a date
between my teeth
and closed my eyes
and taught me
that, which i already knew.

i died
winged by your breath then
and anointing you “unnamed”.

the date rooted in my mouth
and turned me into an oasis.
your oasis.

no camels – just water and date-trees.

and us.
undying.

© Liliana Negoi

from “The hidden well”

On seas, bicycles and whiskey

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”

These words belong to Rabindranath Tagore, and they came to my mind while I was actually looking at an over-water bridge that is currently being consolidated in the area where I live. I looked at the bridge this early morning, seeing it for what it is – a connection between the two shores of the river, meant to ease people’s access from one side to the other. And then I realized that the important aspect of Tagore’s quote was not what was said in it, but what it implied: the idea of moving, of doing something. The idea of not waiting for things to come to you, but of trying to reach those things somehow, whether by building bridges towards them, or by getting around the obstructions.

Man learned to cross seas and mountains because of his need for exploring, for moving, for trying to obtain the “better”. Up until now, evolution was not done only by staying still and admiring the circumstances – although, if sitting still means learning and evaluating the pros and cons of an action, it is also called “moving”, in my opinion.

Seas, waters, obstacles, are always in our paths. Sometimes we see them from a distance, thus having time to prepare for them, other times we wake up right in front of them, and we have to make a decision. And most of the time the decision implies moving – either towards our goal, or away from it. Sitting there and not doing anything about it, although a valid choice, is the worst, because you willingly confine yourself into a dead end. And life is not – or at least it should not be – about dead ends.

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”

The one who said that was Einstein – and the main word in that quote is the last one, because no matter what happens at a certain point in time, in a specific place, no matter how big the pain, the horror, the joy or whatever the experienced feeling, time, as we, humans, perceive it, continues to flow. Things change. Life goes on – with or without us.

And related to that, I’ll end my today’s pondering with one of the shortest quotes that apply here – Johnny Walker’s “Keep walking”.

© Liliana Negoi

no rain

blades of onyx
sharp
cut the umbilical cord
of sounds and tears
flooding the sea of sorrow
with dryness

the eyes of drought
measure with pride
the parched souls
lined up at the gates of the sun

“no water!”

the sponge drips only sour blood
on the lips of light

“no roots!”

echoes of salt
whirl within voices
and sand stays still

“unworthy!”

the earth screams
muddy with guilt and regrets

someone
somewhere
will carve hieroglyphs
in the stones we become
today…

© Liliana Negoi

congregating war

chippy charmed blade in Moira’s hand
cries for blood,
begs for blood,
slashing carmine canopies
for the sake of the flow,
grinning its ivory fang
at the lavish crimson gush
drenching sands and drowning wills.
on the red river
crucified Jesus floats,
watching clouds on skies in flames
twinning the boulders of coagulated sins
crawling along the muddy shores,
wondering if those were the sins
for which he drank the cup.
in the meantime carnivorous swords
keep fueling the flood,
making sure that the river’s level stays always high
enough,
as if that would get the floating cross closer to the skies.
not that it mattered anyway –
after all, there’s plenty of that bloody slime
smelling like putrid faith
to fuel a thousand more crusades…

© Liliana Negoi

faulty darwinism

chopped and chewed and swallowed—
down we go
on eternity’s throat,
one bite of salty clay after another
to be recycled
and become the burnt sienna skies
of some obscure tomorrow.

fate chimes its’ eyelashes
like some odalisque its’ coin belt—
the boatman’s pockets are always full
with tradition’s eye seals.

we are but stairs
for humanity’s pretended
e-volution,
we circle meanings
like eagles circle unseen angels
up-above,
without ever touching them,
we live to ignore
and ignore to learn
the reason why history is repeating—
and talking tall
we show our real essence—

the spoiled mud flowing in our veins
keeps bringing bitter smiles
on god’s resigned mouth:
ever non-grown-ups, these earthlings…

© Liliana Negoi

water

holding in my hands the small tub in which at noon i bathed my children
i look at the water in which float, benumbed by heat,
the dusty remains of their earlier game –
in some other reality, water would be carefully filtered
and then poured at the root of some apple tree whose shade and whose fruits
would be more than heavenly gifts –
in mine
it looks at the sun through eyes of foam
then slowly flows from the tub,
and the games of my children are left to return into the dust of the yard
to water there
the roots of their wings

© Liliana Negoi

december mail

december unfolds its wings, unusually creamy and warm
under a lavender glazed sky, the house’s green walls allow
mild reflections of sunlight to lick them of shadows and
autumn scents, the windows are bored, posing shamelessly
in their entire nude transparency, and a pair of spiders,
having somehow escaped winter’s fangs so far, are
rejoicing upon the bliss of colonizing a dark corner
beneath the eaves, enjoying what in another time of the
year would be called “honeymoon”.
endless phrases cover pages, purposely avoiding periods
that would cut their thread too often, painting complicated
arabesques of meanings similar to some refined sensual
teasing, round and round hot spots but not quite touching
them, like a calligraphic piece of jewelry, and you come to
receive one tiny dot with the same orgasmic gratitude
smearing your smile as if it was a breath of fresh air
caressing your gasping throat.
seconds seem to play leap-frog back and forth, time’s
heartbeats are stuck in the mud and nothing helps with
ignoring the howling silence perforated here and there by
the momentary chirp of some stray sparrow in search for
crumbs, and by the time you’ve reached this line you
realize that all that i’ve actually told you so far is that i’m
alone and missing you…

© Liliana Negoi

from “The hidden well”

call me

call me when you’ll be old
so old that the only thing making sense to your tired hands
will be to open the windows during sunrise
and to latch them back at dusk,
when any name you’d call
will taste round and salty in your voice
when it will scratch the silence
call me when you will have called
all else on the face of earth
and when the only name left to be called will be mine.
call me,
and I will come and curl at your feet and warm them up
and make them remember the cubic stones
of paths we took only in my imagination
and the trickle of water carrying down the road
autumn leaves that never saw November in their lives.
call me when you’ll be old,
so old that eggshells of sparrows will look like coffins
from which death escaped and feeds on earthworms and flies,
and I will come and wonder by your side
of how suddenly water will spring from the wooden doors of cupboards
mirroring the flow of words from some apocryphal gospel
yet undiscovered.
but above all, call me when you’ll be old
when the mere exercise of remembering me will exhaust you
call my name,
as small and insignificant and lacking substance as it may seem
and I will come and finally hold your hands
and nest my breath in them
and I will tell you a story about a love that wasn’t love,
a time that wouldn’t flow
and stardust.

© Liliana Negoi

In time . . .

Against all ponderable odds
the sky is blue today,
a blue as deep as that of God’s
forgotten depths of heaven,
one could say.

You look at me, I look at you
and none of us does speak –
the morning silence (nothing new)
allows a smile to blossom
and to sneak

into the middle of our thoughts,
and suddenly we blink,
and three imponderable dots
of colour and of meaning
let us sink

in memories of youth and lo!
the years have never passed.
We’re young again, though old, and so
the blue above has never
been so vast.

© Liliana Negoi

Bonds

FullSizeRender-9[…] I took a deep breath, and closed my eyes, waiting for the burst – which came almost instantaneously:

– Our talks should be different! You know? Different. Like, when you come to me with that long face and I just know that something’s wrong, you should just talk to me and tell me about it. I mean, for heaven’s sake, I know you since you were a child, since you took your first steps towards me and hugged me. I felt you there, at my feet, a little being with so much potential, looking at me with those big round eyes and laughing with all your heart…you were such a marvel…and you still are, but somewhere on the way you lost your confidence in me. I used to be the keeper of all your secrets – and now you’re ashamed to talk to me, as if talking to me would make you some sort of a freak…Talking to me doesn’t make you a freak. Sharing your inner world with me doesn’t make you a freak. Feeling together with me doesn’t make you a freak. But your fear and shame do.

I opened my eyes, trying to ignore the tears streaming along my cheeks – how I had missed that voice…and how much truth it carried…I wanted to mumble a feeble “I’m sorry”, but then it spoke again:

– I don’t want you to be sorry. I just want you to open your eyes and see me for what I truly am – for what I’ve always been: your friend. And if you don’t believe me, look at me and remember the countless times when you ran to me and gifted me with your tears, your laughter and your thoughts. I still remember each and every moment we shared.

And while I touched the tree’s bark, letting my heartbeats resonate between my palm and the old trunk, its leaves caressed my cheek and it concluded gently:

– Your most loyal friend I am, not just the old oak in your father’s garden.[…]

© Liliana Negoi

The First Book That Shaped Me

Monument to brothers Grimm on the market place in Hanau. (Hessen, Germany)
Monument to brothers Grimm on the market place in Hanau. (Hessen, Germany)

“A book that changed my life” is not an easy theme for me personally. Mainly because, from my point of view, every book (or almost every book) I read changed my life in one way or another, so I could stop at many, many titles and make lists of reasons why they played such an important role for me.

10729325I decided, however, to “dig deep” within my memories and find the very first book that influenced me, and I realized that it was actually the first book of stories that I read when I was about 5-6 years old, the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales. I know this is not one of the books you probably expected me to mention, but I realized that this was the book that opened my mind towards literature, towards reading, towards the world of fantasy, and it is worth mentioning as much as any other “heavy literature” or philosophy or whatever else.

Those stories built inside my mind as a child so many images, so many ideas, and they “injected” me with an endless hunger for reading, so I owe them a very large share of my present. Sure, there are people nowadays who say that those stories have less educational aspects, passages that may horrify (personally I don’t remember EVER having nightmares because of them), but what they forget is that these stories (Grimm’s and not only those) bear in them the water of magic, which is the best water that can nurture a child’s mind. Children NEED stories, in order to establish a scale of values, in order to develop their imagination, in order to understand certain aspects of this world which complex words cannot explain to them. And you would be amazed what a sharp sense of good and bad children can get from stories :).

So yes, this is the very first book that changed my life, and this is why I chose to tell you about it: because it was the first door to understanding life which I opened by myself and which opened all the other doors, because it made me NEED to read the same way I needed to breathe. Because it made me see that books are the air of the human mind.

– Lilianna Negoi

© 2016, essay, Lilianna Negoi, All rights reserved; the brothers Grimm statue photograph is in the public domain; the book cover is Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Household Stories from the Collection of the Bros. Grimm (Avenel Books, 1973) fair use

Night Light

full moon just expired,
one more circle becoming history.

a huge moth
courts the lantern next to me,
in love with the unknown,
and the lantern pins the moth’s living shadow
against the pages of the book in my hand.

under the moth’s gray fluttering shade
words scream,
brought to life by the dance of night’s butterfly,
ghostly figments of some pitch serialism –
threads pulled out with an apparent accidentalism
from the page’s canvas with a blunt crochet hook.

meanings melt all-together
while the book becomes the moth,
fluttering its pages under the light of my “why” –
and greedy
my eyes finish devouring
about the same time that the moth’s wings
inert
close.

the lantern remains alive though –
there’s always room for another moth

© Liliana Negoi

FORGING NEWBORN CRIES OF HOPE: An Interview with Team Member, Romanian Poet, Liliana Negoi

unnamed
Liliana Negoi (b. 1979) Craiova, Romania

phoenix  (a tanka)

rising from my heart,
bathing in my soul’s ashes,
proud of my fire…
i’m burning words with my thought,
forging new-born cries of hope…

– Liliana Negoi

I got to know Liliana Negoi a.k.a. Lily (Endless Journey and curcubee în alb şi negru), her gentle refined spirit and her intelligent and well-crafted work years ago when we collaborated on a poetry project. We still keep in touch – it must be at least five years now – and Lily agreed to join The BeZine team and is a regular contributor of poems and essays to that peace-through-the-arts forum. Here today you have an in-depth interview with this thoughtful poet and samples of her work. Enjoy!

JAMIE: How did you come to poetry and when did you start writing it?

Although I was a big fan of reading (prose and poetry), poetry began to flow from my pen rather late – by “late” I mean when I was about eighteen years old. The thing that triggered the birth of my first poem was that my philosophy teacher from my final high school form almost died Someone told us that he was in hospital, all alone, without anyone to be there for him. This idea of profound loneliness managed to touch a “sleeping layer” in my conscience. thus my first poem, Anonymous Will, was born.

Despite that first poem coming out though, I didn’t consider writing poetry in a serious manner until much later, at first because I didn’t feel that my texts were good enough, and then because people around me didn’t seem to be much interested in poetry or writing. Also, at that time I was caught up with my music studies I paid more attention to those. A couple of years later though, I discovered the Internet (yeah, I was rather late in discovering it), and via the Internet, the English poetry websites. Eighteen years ago Romanian poetry websites were less developed, and since I wasn’t frequenting literary circles, what I found online was of much help.

At first I translated some of the poems I had already written. Later I simply began to write directly in English. The rest was a matter of time; the passion for poetry was already there. And in all this time, the creations of well-known Romanian poets like Nichita Stanescu, Marin Sorescu, Ana Blandiana, Adrian Suciu, but also foreign ones, like Pablo Neruda, Walt Whitman, and lately Nikola Madzirov, were (and are) a splendid lesson to me, with regard to understanding and writing poetry.

I also write haiku and tanka, as you know, but for some reason, despite the fact that these are also poetry forms, to me they were always on a different plan than the rest. Maybe because their spirit is of a different nature, and it took me more time to “crack the nut” and understand them.

I still see myself as a beginner in many ways, when it comes to poetry, but poetry chose to come to life through (however clumsily) me. I think this is one of my biggest joys in this life.

JAMIE: You are so productive: two blogs – one in English and one in Romanian – and five books of poetry in English and one in Romanian. I believe your children are still young … and you have your love of music and gardening to feed as well. How do each of these support and feed the others?

Yeah, I guess it sounds like a lot, if you sum it up like that :). But it was (again) all a matter of time. I didn’t do all those things at once. For instance, the first one that appeared was the English blog, when I felt that I needed something else than the poetry websites (on which I spent actually quite a few years, reading, learning, understanding – the international virtual literary community is a marvelous ground, if you know how to use it). Then came up the first poetry collection, in English, and despite the fact that there were mistakes in that process which I saw later, I think the greatest thing about that printed collection is that it made me more aware of what words truly are, and how they should be treated.

The Romanian blog appeared when a very dear friend of mine told me, with a lot of disappointment, that I should also write in Romanian, not only in English (I think I forgot to tell you that, after I started to write in English, for quite a long time I wrote only in that language). So I began to write again in Romanian, and to be honest, at first I felt like a toddler who was beginning to learn how to walk :). But then I found my way again among words, and it all fell into place.

The books…well, I guess they simply followed on the way, one by one.

As for the rest – yes, my two children are only eight and seven years old, so they do require a lot of attention. All these aspects of my life, including music and everything else, are merely the pieces of a puzzle – some bigger, some smaller, but all filling up the space of my life up to the smallest crack :). And when these things can’t fill those up, I have reading, which was the first passion in my life, starting at age four. But, again, it’s not a more crowded life than others’. It just requires (as in all cases) good time management. They are all connected – children to garden, garden to music, music to writing, or in any other order you prefer :).

JAMIE: You have said that you like to write in English. What about English is so appealing? How is it different from writing in Romanian?

I started to learn English when I was five years old, in kindergarten. Back then, Ceausescu was still ruling Romania; so, to have an English teacher in kindergarten was rare. My grandmother, with a spark of genius, wanted at all costs for me to start to learn this language in private, at home, so she arranged for lessons with that teacher. There were two things that I hated about it (or more like about the way of learning it): learning vocabulary by heart and learning grammar rules :).

Later, I stared English in school in my sixth form, when I was about twelve. The problems were the same. I simply didn’t understand that what I needed and wanted was to read more in that language. I think that happened about the time when I discovered the English poetry websites. I was lucky enough to talk online to English native speakers. That simple but constant contact with this language was the thing that enabled me understand what my teachers hadn’t – the inner mechanics of the language. I think it’s the same with any language – the more you read and speak it, the faster you understand and learn it, but the main thing is to read and speak about something you are interested in, not just didactical texts.

For instance, I fell in love with Nikola Madzirov’s poetry a couple of years ago, when I bumped into it by accident, while looking for something else. I read it in English back then, from his bilingual book Remnants of Another Age, but I heard some recordings of him reading his own texts in Macedonian. I was curious to see on my own how it sounded read in that language. Now, with Macedonian, the problem is the Cyrillic language, but I was fortunate enough to know most of the Russian letters from my grandmother, so I had an easier start with that. I began reading them, always comparing my reading with the English version, and listening to the several recordings of the author, and now I’m starting to slowly understand and learn Macedonian, even if my original intention was only to “feel the taste” of Madzirov’s poetry in my mouth :).

Going back to English (I’m sorry I have such a way of “expanding” my answers, please forgive me!), I think English provided me with a fluency I didn’t expect, and, for some reason, a fluency that, at the time when I began to write in English, I hadn’t found in my own native tongue. Sure, I speak Romanian without problems, but from many points of view English had a different impact on my writin and images were easier to “paint” with English words (and it happened to me to find many images that were better worded in English than in Romanain).

I think the real issue here is the musicality of a language in certain contexts; or, better said (because all languages have their own musicality), the way in which the musicality of a language resonates to the reality stimuli surrounding us. It’s the same with music. All music is beautiful, but you don’t listen to any kind of music in any given moment of the day – all languages are musical, but you can’t capture the beauty of a moment the same way in two languages. No matter how good a translation, Basho’s haikus will never convey the same feeling as in their native tongue, simply because that language has profound connections to that form and because that form responds best to that musicality. My inner structure resonates (or at least it used to resonate) better with the way English language sounds, thus my poetry, for years, flowed much better in that language.

JAMIE: What forms of poetry do you prefer and why?

I write mostly in free verse, white rhyme, or various combinations of rhyming verse, but in time I tried newer and older forms of poetry. From these, I eventually grew much attached to sonnets (especially Shakespearean sonnets), haiku and tanka.

I also have another form, the sestina, that’s dear to me, but with that one is more like a “love-hate relationship”, so to speak. One of the people who taught me online certain things about poetry made me literally try to write several forms, and at some point he mentioned the sestina, saying that a rhyming pentameter in that form was among the most difficult things to write, so in my mind I was like “challenge accepted” :))). I wrote three such texts, the first two not so bad, but of the third one (named “panta rhei”) I’m actually very proud of. I decided that even if I am able to produce a text in this form, I am not very fond of the fact that the virtuosity is strictly connected to the way one makes use of the same six end-line words all through the poem. It’s a whirling form, maybe even maddening one – and one needs much patience and determination, and above all, a VERY good motivation to write one. I only found that motivation three times so far, maybe I will find it again, but I couldn’t say when that should happen.

Sonnets, on the other hand, were something so elegant, from my point of view; they were like a time travel at first. And as with other things, I realized that not all imagery can be “stuffed” into this form. Normally a love poem, I found that love sometimes, when put in a sonnet, feels square, just like I found out that other aspects of life, when given the form of a sonnet, gain a certain nobility.

The haiku and tanka were two forms that appealed to me first due to their minimalism and strictness of rules. I’m not talking here about the 5-7-5 haiku rule – so many great haiku poems were written without respecting that rule. I’m talking about the fact that a haiku, for instance, is merely an observation of what surrounds you, as a poet, an observation of the delicate changes in the nature around you, of the delicate balance between nature and you. Haiku is not simple, precisely because it should be simple, and we, the European and American poets, don’t know how to keep things as simple as a haiku. I love haiku because it taught me to look deeper at things, but also to see the immediate beauty of everything. It’s there. You need no metaphor to acknowledge it – the beauty of life, in its entirety.

JAMIE: You’ve accomplished so much. What are your next steps, your goals for the future?

It’s hard to have steps in poetry. My only step (in this moment) related to this is to find the best way to bring words to life. Sure, I have some book projects, but I am not as disciplined in this matter as to sit down every day and tell myself “now I’m working on this or that book”. It’s a matter of inspiration, and yes, maybe some are able to summon inspiration at will. Lately though, I find myself basking in some sort of “laziness”, let’s say. I’m more like living than writing the poetry :). I definitely won’t stop writing; I just want to understand the connection between time and poetry, between time and words.

JAMIE: What advice might you have for others who self-publish their poetry, whether it be via blogs or books or both?

I think they should write for themselves, first of all, and learn to be objective. One must realize that you begin to become a poet only after you’re willing to “trim” what you create, to understand that not all words belong to one poem, just like not all poems belong to one book.

Then comes something that someone very dear to me told me at some point: do you want to publish a book in order for it to be commercial or in order for it to be good? Because it’s highly difficult to have both things at the same time nowadays. If they write for commercial reasons…I’m afraid they will have to take advice from some other person than me :).

If they don’t write for commercial reasons, then they should first of all write with profound honesty. They shouldn’t write for others to like what they pen. They should write with the awareness that those liking their poems today might not like them tomorrow, and that what matters if first of all their personal connection to what they write.

They should write with the awareness that people liking their work now will be gone in years to come, and what they write will be seen by a different generation, with different eyes, different brains and concepts. They must decide whether they want to write something that should be valid for a while or for ever. Evanescence is beautiful to talk about but difficult to assume.

Writing something that should be valid forever is not easy. For that, you must love to read – reading forms your vocabulary, your imagination, your inspiration. You must love to see things – not just look at them, but see them, in their entirety. You must love to write. Not only on a computer keyboard, but with a pen on a piece of paper. Form a connection with the words. See them inked on paper. See the poetry of the spaces in words, not just that of their letters’ lines. You must love to talk but also to listen to people. Form connections with people. Above all, if you want to write poetry, you must be willing to live it first with all that it implies.

 

IMG_8751

The Talking Rose

I was talking on an evening to a purple velvet rose
that was reigning in a glass bowl on a shelf inside my house –
I was asking it to sell me out its soul, but I suppose
what I offered was too little,
what I offered was too useless,
what I offered was too shallow,
for I thought I heard it grouse
of how priceless was the perfume which it spread inside my house.
Feeling vexed by the contempt and pride affected by the bloom
I ignored all further whisper it attempted to convey –
‘til one night, when in the thickly warm and humid summer gloom
all I heard was just the silence,
all I heard was just the darkness,
all I heard was just my breathing
vainly searching for a say
from the rose which, in the meantime, hushed its scent and passed away.
So I tenderly beheld it – purple velvet turned to brown –
as it gracefully adorned the wooden shelf within my room –
now, that all the sweet aroma had resigned the rose’s crown,
what was left was just the stillness,
what was left was just an echo,
what was left was just a shadow
of the rose that met its doom –
and I missed – oh! how I missed! – the talking fragrance of the bloom…

– Liliana Negoi

Liliana Negoi was born in 1979 in Craiova, Romania. She began to write poetry at the age of eighteen. She is the author of five collections of poetry in English (Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the Sand – tanka collection, Cream of wordflakes, The Hidden Well and Amber Drops) and one in Romanian (aparenta curgere a lucrurilor). Texts of hers can be read both on her English blog Endless Journey and Romanian one curcubee în alb şi negru and she can also he heard reciting on SoundCloud HERE and HERE. She is also the author of a novel, Solo-Chess, available for free reading HERE. Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines. She is a member of the team publishing on The BeZine and established, together with Raluca Ioana Chipriade, an e-zine of Romanian art and culture named Din dragoste pentru arta.

© Liliana Negoi, poetry, interview responses, portrait and book-cover art; rose photograph, Jamie Dedes

points

[…] for you see,
you and I are like the two tips of a pair of scissors –
when we get together, the world through which we go
is entirely sheared.
but then again,
the world can remain whole
only as long as those two tips stay together –
when they’re apart they’ll shred
all that stands in their way
in order to get together again […]

© Liliana Negoi

View contributing writer Liliana Negoi’s bio HERE

Nothing More

I was sitting outside once, on an old, gray chair, listening to how the erratic creaking of a wooden door slowly shredded the warm peace of the last summer days. Somewhere above me, a garrulous sparrow strove to explain to its consort some sort of an existential problem, which definitely didn’t regard me and which, anyway, couldn’t have been debated in any other language than theirs (you see, I think that every problem has a particular language of itself, in which it can be expressed and then solved).

I looked at the sky, stretching indecently blue above me, and my right hand, fallen by the chair, found, in its purposeless movement, a tiny weed, which, when touching my palm, birthed within my fingers an imperceptible tremor, almost like a giggle. I caressed its long leaves with an unexplainable impatience, realizing that the last time I had felt such a sensation had been when I’d made love (maybe too long ago). Then my fingers gave in to temptation, and pulling the weed from its root, brought it in front of my eyes, like a teenager presenting his lover to his parent for the first time. I don’t know what name bore the small plant – I was never good about the nomenclature of weeds. But I looked at its filiform being, feeling some sort of regret because, out of curiosity to see it, I had allowed laziness to drive me towards breaking it, instead of simply having bent upon it. The small herb was trembling lightly in the wind, in my hand, and without thinking too much I rubbed between my fingertips the tuft at its end, looking then with wonderment at the tiny white dots, lingering for a second on my skin, and then allowing themselves to be carried by the warm wind towards the dust on the ground. The weed, now seedless, continued to quiver.

The wooden door suddenly squeaked again, and I sharply understood that, in all this time, my curiosity and I were only the way chosen by the little plant to spread its offspring – and nothing more.

© Liliana Negoi

Gardening Tools

I was doing some spring gardening a few days ago, and at some point I saw my mother-in-law (who was visiting at the time) grabbing the scissors in order to remove some withered branches from a bush, and I heard her murmuring “that’s it, you waste the roots for nothing anyway”. I knew why she was doing this, and I also know she was right to do it, it was a simple gesture but I couldn’t help thinking about it in the days to come. You see, when we look at a plant or a tree and we see a dead leaf or branch still attached to the body, we cut it down, because “it pointlessly consumes energy”. And it’s a good thing to do that, because the plant or tree, thus freed of a dry limb, can grow a new one instead. What it’s more difficult to understand is, since we’ve learned to do this to plants, why can’t we do this to ourselves? What prevents us to cut the sterile, dry, energy consuming parts of our lives, and grow new ones?

I think we do (or better said, don’t do) that because we’re afraid of the pain. We’re afraid that it hurts to do that self-trimming, and we’re scared to death of what we may discover if we do that. It’s easier to linger in that perpetual state of presumed wildness, slowly turning into a messy bush, suffocating the flowers with the ever growing thorns and blocking the light from reaching to our core. I know that, because, as the saying goes, it takes one to know one.

You don’t need much to garden yourself and arrange your inner landscape; it’s only a few tools. Honesty first of all – raw, painful, cutting honesty. You look at yourself and see exactly what’s the pointlessly energy consuming part. Then there’s the willingness to fix things. You will also need patience with yourself, because nothing happens over night (oh well, sometimes it does, but those are exceptions), and last, but not least, love. You cannot do anything without love. This list of “gardening” tools can always adapt to the each person’s circumstances, the point is not just having them, but also using them.

Yes, it will hurt. You may even bleed. But you are allowed to ask for help, and you are allowed to cry. You’d be amazed what marvels can a little self-gardening do :).

And for heaven’s sake, if, for some untold reasons, you decide however to be a wild bush, then be a burning one, like the one from the story of Moses ;).

© Liliana Negoi

Haiku

in the old forest
a woodpecker taps for worms –
far, a semantron

*

freshly fallen dew –
on the field of red poppies
a million suns

*

snow on the fir trees –
the hissing scintillation
of the hatchet’s blade

*

winter’s private stash
of sweet-scented summer dreams –
a frozen rosebud

*

on the wooden bridge –
snowflakes like cherry petals
swirling and swirling

© LIliana Negoi

purple fates

how red can a cherry get
when drunk with sunlight?
just enough to kiss the tree goodbye
and roll down to feel
earth’s asperities.
there
the cherry spills its blood
all over the (maybe) ignorant rocks,
(i wonder) –
teaching them the poetry of redness,
and the rocks
in exchange
peel the cherry’s sacrificial skin
and dig within its flesh
for the pip.
would you recognize the ghost of the flower
when watching altogether
the bones of the cherry
among those of the rocks?

© Liliana Negoi

bonds ~ flash fiction

"The Heart Desires" The second in the Pygmalion Series by Edward Burnse-Jones, British (1833-1898) Pre-Raphaelite
“The Heart Desires” The second in the Pygmalion Series by Edward Burne-Jones, British (1833-1898) Pre-Raphaelite

in that tiny room silence was glazing the sunrise and a soft mist seemed to filter each particle of light making it look like molten honey. it didn’t matter whether outside it was summer or winter, or something in-between of those two – in that room time always appeared to be frozen, in a sweet stillness smelling like lavender and tender ignorance that could almost make you smile.

there were seven hues of green in her eyes. he had counted them all, as they sparkled hypnotically emeraldine, peeking shamelessly through the large windows as if wanting to take their flight. “angels would kill for such sheens” he thought, not without a shade of pride in his mind – after all, she belonged to him.

there was love, and passion, and endless gazing interrupted only by the need for sleep forcing eyes to close, followed by sudden wake-ups from nightmares in which she was no longer there, and each time his hand touched the smooth contours of her body his blood stream seemed to be flooded with the most marvelous narcotic. he knew he loved her. he knew he adored her.

she stood there, right next to his bed, naked, showered by the waves of thoughts cascading from his dilated, awed pupils, always replying to that with the same stillness of her emerald-cut irises and with the same glacial innocence of all masterpieces, while all his thoughts kept imploring for the same thing, over and over again:

“come to life, Galatea!”

© Liliana Negoi; public domain illustration

Georgre Enescu: “Carillons nocturnes”, Cristian Petrescu, piano

Georgre Enescu is the greatest Romanian composer and Cristian Petrescu received the Prix du Disque de l’academia Charles Cross in 2000 for recording all of Enescu’s piano works, which are many.

– Liliana Negoi

On Music

Wednesday morning and my fingers run on the computer keyboard while in the background Yo-Yo Ma is performing miracles on his cello with Bach’s suites. I cannot hold back a melancholic smile, remembering a part of my youth which I put aside for the past ten years, but which lately keeps bugging me to revive it – some of you may know that I used to play the piano years ago, but few know also that at some point I decided to give up music and literally sold my piano. It doesn’t matter why I did it – back then it seemed like the logical response to the circumstances. I won’t say that I shouldn’t have done it – an action isn’t defined only by the doer, but also by the reasons that caused it, and I’m not here to justify my reasons from back then.

However, I can’t help missing the flow of feelings through my being while my fingers used to play fragments of the souls of Bach, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, Mozart, Beethoven, Prokofiev and so many others. As I told a friend of mine at some point, there are moments when the vibration of a piano chord is enough to bring tears into my eyes.

Therefore, today I’m talking to you about music, about this splendid, but still far from being completely understood, part of our life. For what is music, after all? What happens to us when we listen, almost as in trance, to the organized sounds played or sung by someone? Be it classic or modern, vocal or instrumental, music always fascinated people, and they never ceased to strive to comprehend and conquer its amazing language, without realizing that it was the language that was conquering them, and not the other way around. Men tried to subdue this world of the sound, tried to impose rules to it, tried to fit it into shapes, forms, organized it in systems based on various criteria, but in the end, no matter if the rules are respected, if the form is an old or a new one, music transcends all the artificial organization and we find ourselves completely ecstatic in the presence of sounds. Music conquers us, and once it does so, it owns us for life, whether we’re aware of that or not. Why? I don’t know. Some say it’s because music is the language of god. Others say it’s because the frequencies of music resonate with our own frequencies. But does it really matter? The truth is, no, it doesn’t. Music simply governs our hearts, in one of the most splendid ways possible.

Yes, music owns me. It always did. It always will.

bladed

[…] she was standing there,
pouting childishly at the words
aligned in front of her
like some tiny little soldiers
(you know – those plastic figurines
frozen in all sort of battle positions…)
and she was trying to make them fit
in the cherry-flavored muffin patty pan
that she was holding.

to no avail though…

she kept lashing those poor meanings
to force them into pattern –
“bad, bad, bad haiku!” –
as if they were a pet
and she – their owner.

but she wasn’t able to see
the harmonics of words
spreading all over the place,
resonating in octaves,
and fifths, and fourths,
and fixing their roots
into the very marrow of god.

words pitied her and her blindness,
and after a while they tried to kiss her fingertips,
hoping to open her
to the infinity beyond her walls.

one word even sat on her shoulder,
caressing her cheek with a dove-ish touch
but all that it encountered
was ice.

eventually, words gave up their hope,
and they cut their limbs
and shoved themselves into the form,
resigned.

triumphant,
she smiled to the small poem in front of her
“there, i did it!!”

but in the same second
her smile vanished,
because the poem, now made of limbless words,
was dead…[…]

_______________________________

from “The hidden well”, audio version here

– Liliana Negoi

© 2015, poem, Liliana Negoi, All rights reserved

The Closer God

IMG_6245But it so happened today that, when I took my children to school today, my elder one’s teacher mentioned something about the kids’ religion class on Friday (yes, religion is one of the objects learnt in school in this country – optional, but still there. No comment – at least not in this text of mine) and on my way home I couldn’t help thinking about that topic – religion – of which I wrote in a past post, and the next step was God (as I said once, I am not an atheist, it’s just that my belief in and my relationship with God are of a different nature than the standard ones) and the fact that more and more people, despite talking about God and saying that they believe in Him, have the habit of putting a huge distance between themselves and the higher being we’re talking about. And I was wondering WHY they do that, when it hit me: I had just thought about it. The problem here is the “higher” thing.

You see, it’s common use to say that God is in “the sky”. Up above. In heaven. Even better, in the seventh heaven. Or ninth. Or whatever number you want. But I can’t recall the last time when someone said that to him God was right here, on Earth. And it’s because of this growing distance that we don’t feel the touch of His grace. It’s because of this image of “an old guy, with white beard and long white hair, with a staff in His hand, floating intangibly on a distant cloud”. So stupid…not God, but we. We are the stupid ones. For we send God in farther and farther heavens and then we don’t see Him anymore around us and complain that we don’t feel His touch. To many of us He is just a name. A noun. A vocable. An icon or a statue in a church, and nothing more. But we forget that He is the essence of all life, of all energy, and that means that He is EVERYWHERE around us, in us. And since nothing happens without a reason, I then remembered a fragment from the scroll of Nag Hammadi, better known to people as the Gospel of Thomas, which I had the curiosity to read just several days ago. In the 77th saying, Jesus affirms that “I am the light that shines over all things. I am everything. From me all came forth, and to me all return. Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift a stone, and you will find me there”, stating thus the unity between God and us all, stating thus the profound connection which we fail to see or feel anymore, or which we even reject by thinking of God to be so far away, above us, while we see ourselves in this telluric dimension of life. THIS is where the breach happens. In our minds. In our hearts. In our misunderstanding of the fact that this “higher” being is actually so close to us that we are a part of it.

I will end this with a lovely parable that I happened to read once, but that remained in my mind. Once, in a monastery, there lived only five more monks. People didn’t go there anymore, and the abbot was sad, because he felt that he had failed his mission. At some point he has the occasion to talk to a rabbi and he asks this one for a word of wisdom, an advice of how to revive his order. And the rabbi says that “The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you” and then he left. The abbot, hearing that, wondered who of the five monks could have been the Messiah, and he was suddenly afraid that maybe he mistreated the Holy One. So he told the other monks what he had been told by the rabbi, and they all began to think about that. Each of them wondered who could be the Messiah, and so they started to treat each other with more and more respect, on the off chance that one of them might be the One. It was only a matter of days before the atmosphere in the monastery changed, turning into a wonderful environment. When other people happened to come to the monastery, they saw the love and respect that radiated from the relationship between the five monks, and then they were touched by that too, and wanted to be a part of the order. Thus the order was revived, simply because people there tried to see the Messiah/God in each of those around them.

There’s so much more to say about this topic, but I’ll only tell you that we should do that too. We should see God in each of us, and even more, in each of the beings and things surrounding us. And then the far-away heaven would be much closer than we could imagine :).

– Liliana Negoi

2015, essay, Liliana Negoi, All rights reserved; photograph, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

God Particles

IMG_2373When I began to write this text I had a small difficulty in accepting the idea supported by some people, that “the imagination imitates, it is the critical spirit that creates”, and I confessed my thoughts to Jamie, who, kindly enough, allowed me to disagree with that phrase and to conceive this article the way I deemed it fit.
The reason why I needed this “freedom” was because, from my own point of view, it is the imagination that creates, that unleashes from the spheres of the unknown new things, unseen things, unthought-of-before things.

According to its official definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, imagination is “the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality.” That would mean that by no means does imagination imitate. On the contrary, it’s the one that facilitates and often induces the creative process. However, imagination without an objective critical eye, that would correct possible faults and improve the final outcome, does only half of the creation’s job. While I thought of this, I suddenly began to understand all the things involved by this process.
Truth be told, nowhere is man closer to God (whatever the name of God may be) than in the act of creation. In the moment when, driven by necessity, he uses his imagination, his knowledge and skill and his critical spirit to create something, no matter the essence, man reproduces, at a smaller scale, the act of the primordial creator. It is then that man experiences, either he is aware or not, the beautiful complexity of this thing, and even if some say that it’s more important to have imagination, while others lean more towards skill or critical spirit or other sides of the process, they all matter. Each one plays its equally important part – the imagination sketches the project, the skills and knowledge help achieve it. The critical spirit corrects the mistakes and perfects the outcome. The act of creation requires all these aspects in order to satisfy the primary need that triggered it, and in the end all that truly matters is the final result, the work of art.

I am sure you will find the creative process dissected in many books and on many websites. As interesting as a technical debate would be, I’m also sure that you, dear reader and creator will understand that what everybody has to keep in mind is the fact that for each person this process is different, because we, as people, are different. Of course, we can establish general rules and lines, but let’s face it, some people have an easier way of imagining the new, while others find it simpler to analyze and correct. What we all must bear in mind is that the thing we must focus upon is neither of the “tools” we use (for all those, imagination, skills, knowledge, critical spirit etc. are merely tools) but the creation itself. And above all, upon the amount of passion we invest in it – that is what truly defines us as creators :).

– Liliana Negoi

© 2015, essay, Liliana Negoi, All rights reserved; photograph, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

 

for us

magnolias were dying slowly along the road side.

they were dying like the blinks of some eyelids
over the black holes of gazes
swallowing all the light around them.

or like some butterflies.

or like some waltz steps
suddenly too tired of music.

and in all this time on our soles grew paths,
with their roots deeply sunk in calculations and statistics,
lowering us into valleys and rising us upon mountains
and bending us from our waist all the way to the ground
making us search for the ant hills in which we were born.

magnolias were dying slowly along the road side
and god was picking their petals one by one
to later make from these
suns and rain and harrowed hearts and tomb stones
and ant hills
for us.

– Liliana Negoi

© 2015, poem, Lilian Negoi, All rights reserved

Pondering – on silence

 

389px-Faras_Saint_Anne_(detail)I was reading about John Cage today and his famous piece, 4’33”. As you may know, that is a composition conceived in 1952, meant for any instrument (or combination of instruments), and the score instructs the performer(s) to not play the instrument(s) during the entire duration of the piece, which is meant to consist of the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed, although it is commonly perceived as “four minutes thirty-three seconds of silence”.

The reason why I was reading that is less important, the irony was that there was an awful amount of noise around me while I was plunging into Cage’s reasons to write a piece about silence. Now, precisely at the time when I was sort of praying for a miracle that would stop all that noise, my eyes fell on the fragment quoted below:

“In 1951, Cage visited the anechoic chamber at Harvard University. An anechoic chamber is a room designed in such a way that the walls, ceiling and floor absorb all sounds made in the room, rather than reflecting them as echoes. Such a chamber is also externally sound-proofed. Cage entered the chamber expecting to hear silence, but he wrote later, ‘I heard two sounds, one high and one low. When I described them to the engineer in charge, he informed me that the high one was my nervous system in operation, the low one my blood in circulation.’ Cage had gone to a place where he expected total silence, and yet heard sound. ‘Until I die there will be sounds. And they will continue following my death. One need not fear about the future of music.’ The realisation as he saw it of the impossibility of silence led to the composition of 4′33″.”

And lo! While I was reading that, the huge noise around me stopped, and I was able to hear the music of my neurons, chewing on the relative silence suddenly fallen upon my surroundings . Quite a poetic coincidence, if I may add.
But coming back to the point, what people grew to call as “silence” is merely the absence of sounds. An absence otherwise relative, as demonstrated by the quote above – for our own body always plays its own music, above the absolute state of silence. Sometimes we like it, sometimes we don’t, simply because silence, like all things, is sometimes necessary, and other times it should be replaced by something else. There can be silence in the middle of the storm, as well as it can lack in the middle of some anechoic chamber. What matters most is not the physical silence that we experience, but the mental one, when the mind comes to that state of silence called peace – because that is when we actually “hear” our soul.

– Liliana Negoi (Endless Journey and curcubee în alb şi negru)

© 2013, essay, Liliana Negoi, All rights reservedIllustration ~ St. Anne by an anonymous painter in Faras, which was a major city in Lower Nugia between what is now Egypt and the Sudan. It is housed in the National Museum in Warsaw and the photograph of it is released into the U.S. Public Domain.