From L’AUTOROUTE A4 ET AUTRES POÈMES
LINDA MARIA BAROS • translated from Romanian by
ADAM J. SORKIN & LIVIA ANDREI
ENTRECHATS WITH SIX BATTEMENTS
At night, the bikers have the highway to themselves
pulverized in their blood.
In the morning they pierce it like a needle piercing a vein.
Occasionally they stop at a motel
and leave the table with girls tangled in their beards
like crumbs of bread.
In the parking lot, the girls take from their purses
tiny, transparent trumpets.
They perform entrechats with six battements.
The highway opens its arteries.
Its seminal cords explode into the city.
MICI SĂRITURI FORFECATE
Motocicliştii îşi ţin peste noapte autostrada
pulverizată în sânge.
Dimineaţa, se-nfig în ea precum acul în venă.
Se opresc rareori la câte-un motel
şi se ridică de la masă cu fetele încâlcite în bărbi
ca nişte firimituri de pâine.
În parcaje, fetele scot din gentuţe nişte trompete mici,
Fac mici sărituri forfecate.
Autostrada-şi deschide arterele.
Cordoanele ei seminale explodează-n oraş.
BIKERS BURNING ALIVE
The bikers pass like a lightning bolt,
with blondes from Malmö,
in the back pockets of their jeans.
Embodied from their ribs.
They lean low on curves
(the teaspoon position suits them perfectly!)
while, striking a phosphorus kneecap on the asphalt,
they suddenly ignite
without realizing it
and burn alive.
MOTOCICLIŞTII ARD DE VII
Motocicliştii trec ca fulgerul,
cu blonde de Malmö,
în buzunarul de la spate.
Din coasta lor întrupate.
Se lasă pe-o parte-n viraje
(poziţia linguritei îi prinde grozav!),
până când, frecându-şi de-asfalt fosforul rotulei,
se-aprind dintr-o dată,
fără să-şi dea seama,
şi ard de vii.
The poet Linda Maria Baros writes poems of edgy, haunting imagery in startling combinations that singe, shock, even ignite the reader’s imagination. Her poetic universe offers a dichotomy in individual experience between personal inhibition, insecurity, fear, loneliness and silence on the one hand and, on the other, breaking away into tropes of flight, of wild, dangerous, dreamlike, irrational self-realization, or ecstasy. In these two poems, this is the night world, the very contemporary but fantastic realm of the drugs and, let’s say, the Harleys of the bikers (motocicliștii in Romanian, les motards in French). The poems flaunt a sensibility on the verge of controlled excess in their exhilarating verbal forays that roar down the white space of the A4 page, the poet’s highway to– no, I won’t say to a specific place as much as existing in a state of being, expanding the self, transcending the diurnal and ordinary.
Linda Maria Baros has written the following about her work, referring to her 2009 book, L’Autoroute A4 et autres poèmes (“The A4 Highway and Other Poems”), which included these two poems. I quote Jane Holland’s translation on Baros’s website (www.lindamariabaros.fr/en_poetry.html):
When I write, it goes without saying that I always take the A4 motorway. This A4 page–
textual underground, innermost underground– that I’ve long traveled in the company of
bikers, globe-trotters addicted to speed, those who constantly allow themselves to be
caught in the trap of the poetic labyrinth between tarmac and sky. Life in this labyrinth is a
mere tunnel effect; Ariadne’s thread slips away at every bend. Nonetheless, when I write, I
intend neither to drive the reader toward the exit nor transform him into some biker high
on speed and insanity. I simply want to forge a greater capacity in his heart, to make room
for him between the handlebars and the two wheels.
With my co-translator, Livia Andrei, I worked on Baros’s own Romanian versions, which she sent to me in French as well. Having the French avatars of the poems was particularly helpful with the phrase, “Entrechats with Six Battements,” for the ballet terminology carries over into English (in French, “Entrechat à six battements”– in case anyone wonders, the plural in the English derived from Romanian).
Baros writes in French. She has lived in Paris since she was a student and attended the Sorbonne, and she has won major honors in France– the prestigious Prix Apollinaire in 2007, as well as, earlier, the Prix de la Vocation (“Poetical Vocation” prize), and since 2013, she has been a member of the Académie Mallarmé– as well as in Romania.
Linda Maria Baros has published poetry in Romanian, Amurgu-i departe, smulge-i rubanul! (The twilight is far away, rip its ribbons off!, 2001) and Poemul cu cap de mistreţ (The poem with a wild boar’s head, 2003), and in French, Le livre de signes et d’ombres (The book of signs and shadows), La maison en lames de rasoir (The house of razor blades, 2006—awarded the Prix Apollinaire), and L'Autoroute A4 et autres poèmes (The A4 Highway and other poems, 2009).
Livia Andrei is an English and Spanish translator who works for the Spiru Haret University of Bucharest, Romania. She has also been employed in human resources and has had grants in Turkey and Spain.
Adam J. Sorkin is a prize-winning translator of contemporary Romanian literature. He has published more than fifty books of translation, most recently, in 2014, Rodica Draghincescu’s A Sharp Double-Edged Luxury Object, George Vulturescu’s Gold and Ivy/Aur şi iederă, Marta Petreu’s The Book of Anger, and Mihail Gălăţanu’s The Starry Womb (all with co-translators). He is Distinguished Professor of English, Penn State Brandywine.