Adam J. Sorkin & Floarea Tutuianu


Adam J. Sorkin

Floarea Tutuianu: Postmodern Succubus

FLOAREA TUTUIANU (PRONOUNCED “Tsu-tsu-ya’-nu) writes fiercely sensual poetry. Her voice is thoroughly playful as it is provocative, seemingly confessional at times, and always intelligent. Her lyrical presence has an edgy quality, energized by the intrinsically ironic persona the reader discovers on her pages — those “paper children” the artist makes and nurtures, her power twice any man’s, as she taunts. Tutuianu’s irony is the inflection of a critical detachment and a duplicity of perspective: the image of her gendered self, both sensual and hyperbolic, accommodating and confronting — at moments, affronting — the external world. At its core, her work embodies the poet-as-woman in her yearning for an impossible intensity of experience, a personal and sexual embrace of the world. This sensibility is at once erotic, feverish in its longing for unattainable fulfillment, and also metaphoric, thereby incomplete, a gesture of the esthetic imagination. The projected identity of dust with dust, of word with world, turns back upon her narcissistically, as “flesh of my flesh / and blood of my blood,” becomes a simulacrum for “soul.” The metaphoric — a reaching out, ahead and beyond — thus transforms eroticism into a holy lust, an urgent need for the spiritual.

Beneath the self-mythologized Floarea Tutuianu of the poems, the biographical human being is in fact a master of two arts. A graduate of the Nicolae Grigorescu Institute of the Fine Arts in Bucharest, she began to exhibit her drawings and painting sin 1980, and her visual art work has been regularly presented to the public in group shows and single exhibitions in Poland, Israel, the U.S., Germany, England and Italy, not to mention in Romania. (Currently, Tutuianu works as a graphic designer at the Romanian Cultural Institute Publishing House, also in Bucharest.) As a writer, however, Tutuianu did not make her debut until the mid-1990s with poetry in the major Romanian periodical Literary Romania. The first of her four collections, The Fish Woman, came out a year later in 1996. Three other books have followed: Libresse oblige (1998), The Lion Mark (2000 — from which the poems in Artful Dodge derive), and a selected volume containing a group of new poems as well, The Art of Seduction (2002). She was one of seven poets — and the only woman — featured in a fat anthology (almost 700 pages) published in Bucharest in 2004 and titled Manual of Literature. Poems of hers also appear in the U.S. in The Marlboro Review and Tampa Review. Her latest collection of poetry, which she hopes will come out before the end of 2005, is entitled Your Magnanimity (the “Your” refers to God, she told me in a recent e-mail).

In the poem bearing his name in its title, the apostle Mark turns his leonine head to look benignly on at Tutuianu, seeming in his guise as emblem to bless the poet’s seeking. (Indeed, he is irreducibly an iconographic lion, neither church father nor saint, a symbolic creation like Tutuianu’s own poetic persona.) Meanwhile, Tutuianu’s search continues — in a contemporary world of textuality and figuration, in which apostles, lions, men, flesh and self are all traces, referents in a body of words that is constructed of, and deconstructs into, a multiplicity of fragments and suggestions. In the poet’s microcosm of texts, the poem is comprised of words “stuttering and unsure,” resources that are “squandered” and “mumbl[ed],” if “shameless” as well. In a commensurate dichotomy, the poet is both a sacrificial woman who “throws herself on the flames” and an enduring spirit who through “mere skin and bone…survive[s] in just one word.” Such “syllables of flesh” pronounce Lilith or Leda into life, storied women whose fate was they could not keep their lovers. Concomitantly, in the spell of poetry, even Tutuianu’s hex words, chanted in lines she “write[s] on sand,” seem to be sexed up — for instance, the names of fourth-century martyrs, three virgin sisters executed for their faith, whose recitation in “Mark the Lion” is preceded by the three titles of Henry Miller’s Rosy Crucifixion trilogy. These allusions are eclectic, disturbing, fantastical. And, ultimately, Floarea Tutuianu’s witchery — the illusion of lexical strength paradoxically one and the same as loss — is the seductive, voluptuous, and transformative utterance of a poet-sorceress — one who can best be described as a postmodern succubus. —Media, Pennsylvania, February 6, 2005


Floarea Tutuianu


He hasn’t yet been born
the man who could be half what I am as a woman

Even if they weep between my thighs
my lovers are the good old boys of other women
Together we make paper children whom we raise with zeal
When we get bored we fold them into airplanes
because it’s endless and tiring for the body
to read books

You can’t take a man from another woman’s mouth

Wasted in page after page their seed swells my books

Pale I feel the tree of life rustling through them

Their smiles on which I cut myself each morning
The blood I bathe in each night
because love is as strong as death tramping toward life

He hasn’t yet been born
the man who could be half what I am as a woman

(Translated from the Romanian by Adam J. Sorkin and Irma Giannetti)


Floarea Tutuianu

Mark the Lion

Every morning a woman
slips out of a man’s skin and throws herself on the flames
I no longer know what I look like
here where the eye rolls in complete circles not seeing itself
here where the sand makes you one with the earth that fills you
I write on sand: Nexus Plexus Sexus
Minodora Mitrodora Nymphadora 
the sand flies away helter-skelter (And I…a line furrowing the sand)
I’m flat on the ground I tell myself pressing my face to its surface
mumbling shameless words through nose and mouth
I’ll have to prepare a word with flesh of my flesh
and blood of my blood
He is going to fill me. This word will be my soul
I’ll give birth to him through my mouth. I stand up, stumble in my wings

Over his shoulder Mark the Lion gazes at me with meek yellow eyes.

(Translated from the Romanian by Adam J. Sorkin and Irma Giannetti)


Floarea Tutuianu


Stuttering and unsure of itself
each verse of mine ends in you
A hundred verses make a river that flows into
your oceanic dead love then returns
against me

We are made (of dust) for one another
and with the sweat of our brains shall we love one another
until one of us gains the day

Then you must choose the woman from the sowing of your ribs
that out of her thighs syllables of flesh may bloom
henceforth your buried name shall be handed down
from generation to generation

I’m betting on dust
I remain your equal in solitude

(Translated from the Romanian by Adam J. Sorkin and Irma Giannetti)


Floarea Tutuianu

Leda and the Swan

I laughed cut loose turned cartwheels
I invented men of paper
from paper head to paper toe eyes bulging with words

I laughed squandered words
until mere skin and bone I survived in just one word

I threw that word high in the air
Then a shower of gold fecundated the poet in me
(while on the wall I drew the shadow of my sex)

The lunatic the virgin the man poked their heads out
They breathed fire through gaping mouths at the stroke of each hour

Oh Lord God, let me stay woman
I want to be Leda the swan between my legs

(Translated from the Romanian by Adam J. Sorkin and Irma Giannetti)