Iulia Pană is a well-known Romanian poet, artist, and photographer whose works have received both national and international recognition. She authored six poetry volumes, among which The Simple Image won the debut prize at the Sighet Festival in 1996 and The Scorpio Night won the Dobrudja Branch of the Romanian Writers’ Association prize (2003). A selection of her poems was translated and published by Adrian Săhlean in 2015, under the title Ebony Bones, now available on Amazon. In 2014, she participated in the BookExpo of America as one of the writers in residence at Ledig House – Omi Art Center, New York. A multi-artistic talent, in 2018, Iulia won the PHOCOS Silk-Road Universities Network special prize for her photographic representation of the Romanian identity. Her works have been selected by curators of painting and photo exhibits in Romania. What makes her literary and visual art unique is her experimentation with synesthesia and what she calls phonopictopoesia, special installations combining non-artistic sound, pictorial image, and poetry, inspired by the pictopoesia experiment of famous avant-garde artists and poets such as Victor Brauner and Ilarie Voronca. Iulia Pană visited Seattle in 2016 when she met her local readers at the University Bookstore in Seattle and in Bellevue.
Interview and translations by Ileana Marin.
IM: What has Iulia Pană done during the COVID pandemic?
IP: I haven’t done much. I hope that it will soon be over, but meanwhile I struggle to overcome my fear, as well as the real, and the imaginary virus. After my trip to Stockholm at the beginning of March when I visited the newly reopened National Museum of Art, I spent two weeks in a strict quarantine monitored by Romanian medical authorities. Then, I became a housewife for a month or so. For the first time in twenty-five years I was on medical leave. Like many others, I have taught my photography classes online. Initially, I was very happy with the stay at home order, thinking I would have time to finish projects I had begun some time ago. However, I was wrong.
From this point on, Iulia’s answer took the shape of a poem.
Something was suspended in the air.
The rhythm of me living and suffering slowed down.
The paradox happened... now, I have time, a lot of time... a time that’s forced upon me but that I cannot use
as I used to dream.
Maybe it can be explained by the fact that my entire life I have read Sci Fi books and I have been waiting for a drastic change, the third scientific, or better said, a robotic revolution... not a global health crisis.
Of course, I have worked a fair bit, but with less enthusiasm.
When in my tiny garden lilies-of-the-valley and white lilac were in bloom, I took pictures of seagulls flying above my yard and landing uneasily on the edge of the apartment buildings nearby, then taking off again as if throwing themselves into the void as suiciders.
I have read (mostly online) and since I am more eyes and hands, I’m using them a lot.
Furthermore, with more time on my hands, I have fixed two laptops and a desktop and archived my photos and videos that reached 15 T.
Even my kitchen has become a lab for creativity and improvisation, but I hope it will be that way for a short time.
If something changed for the better, it is the order that I am pressing myself to maintain as I am going through the objects that have surrounded me for too long, some completely useless, some that deserve keeping or archiving.
I feel that I have somehow overcome the mental blockage in which I have been trapped once I had to isolate myself from the rest of the world. I already wrote two poems.
A Ringing Sound (scroll down for Romanian)
There is a ringing in my ear on the right
I’ve always believed that I’m directly connected
To a satellite
Over time, I’ve discovered the electric generators next to my home
And parabolic antennas on the apartment building which had risen from concretemeat and ironbones where my childhood’s apricot trees had grown,
Parallel cables had been ringing in my head too long before the burying earth could quiet them
The ringing grew stronger around 5 a.m. when the street was the milky way
of the youth in high velocity fireballs
coming back from their weekend tasks,
seasonal workers in the warehouse with huge chandeliers and long counters
with thousands of glasses ringing for life anew
Today at noon I went out holding a beautifully written permit slip
and the ringing was rolling through the city like a tourist eager to explore
Near the lake, the mall floats on the tree roots of the former park
and disappears on the horizon out at sea stirring a small sand whirl
on the deserted long beach – north mamaia
The evening shade is as thick as the smoke coming out of the black gold refinery,
now cheaper than dirt
When the ringing winds back through the legobrick-like buildings
on the bank of the other lake struggles to get back to me... into the city
The city does not answer
It hides itself in each and every house
It is obvious that the ringing is crystal clear
Close to celestial music
I convince myself that I’m in direct contact
With a satellite.
From high up it keeps track.
În fiecare seară înainte de culcare în urechea dreaptă
Am un țiuit
Am crezut tot timpul că am o conexiune directă
La un satelit
Dar în timp am descoperit generatoarele electrice de lângă casă
Și antenele parabolice de pe blocul crescut din carnebeton și oasedefier pe locul caișilor copilăriei,
Cablurile paralele țiuiau și ele demult în capul meu pînă le-au îngropat să-le simtă pamântul
Țiuitul se intensifica pe la 5 dimineața când strada era caleea lactee
pentru tineri cu velocitate mărită în bolizi
întorcându-se de la muncilele lor de weekend
lucrători sezonieri ai halelor cu candelabre uriașe, și tejghele lungi
pe care mii de pahare acum țiuie după viață
Azi am ieșit în miezul zilei din casă cu bilet de voie caligrafiat
și țiuitul se plimbă prin oraș ca un turist curios să-l descopere
Lângă lac, mall-ul levitează pe rădăcinile copacilor din fostul parc
și dispare în orizonul mării ridicând un mic vârtej de nisip
pe plaja pustiită și alungită spre nord –mamaia nord
Seara se schimbă tonalitatea se îngroașă ca fumul de la platforma de
prelucrarea a aurului negru scump, acum mai ieftin ca o bragă
La întoarcere șerpuind prin jocul de lego al blocurilor
de pe malul celuilat lac scapă cu greu înapoi spre mine ..spre oraș
Orașul nu răspunde E ascuns în fiecare casă
Țiuitul e atât de clar Aproape o muzică celestă
Mă conving că sunt într-o relație directă
Cu un satelit.
Deasupra el veghează.
89 (scroll down for Romanian)
89 is as close or as far as
the road on foot from the pearl beach at one end of the mamaia resort
to the bakery at the bus terminal in the North tomis district,
the heaven of the summer tourists in the rental rooms
where a savory cheese pie took care of all three meals a day...
In 89 beyond the bakery and apartment buildings there was a vineyard streching up to the lake
and, under the lake, a hidden river supplied water to the city
to the vineyard with golden azalias and to the island in the lake and to the garbage dump
from ovidiu, the village, not the poet,
suddenly a network of streets from the Tartar well
to the lost streets later dug out
by yigru the poet wandering through google maps
for whom 89 is just a number.
89 e atât de aproape dar și atât de departe ,
ca drumul pe jos de la plaja perla din mamaia
până la patiseria de la cap de linie tomis nord,
raiul sezoniștilor de la bloc,
unde placinta dobrogeana înlocuia trei mese pe zi ..
În 89 dincolo de patiserie și blocuri era via până la lac
și sub lac , râul ascuns care alimenta tot orașul
Via cu afuzalii aurii și insula de pe lac și groapa de gunoi
de la ovidiu, satul nu poetul
brusc se trasează ramificațiile de la cișmeaua tatarească
până la străzile pierdute și rascolite mult mai târziu
de yigru poetul călător prin harțile google
pentru care 89 e doar un număr.
IM: Thank you, Iulia, for sharing these new poems. What memories from your Seattle visit do you cherish the most?
IP: Seattle… what can I say! One of my most treasured memories. I still recall every day I spent there. The special people I met and I consider friends, the city anchored by its bridges, Chihuly’s glass garden, the Central Public Library with its futuristic architecture, the incredible Pike Place Market, the EMP museum, Microsoft Campus, the Space Needle, the UW, and the UW Bookstore… the immense wheel displaying a dreamlike panorama, and of course the Native Americans from whom I bought an authentic dream catcher. I hope that after this phase of our lives ends, I will be able to come back to Seattle, where thanks to the ARCS team I felt a real woman poet.
- Iulia Pană, The Stroller Installation, acrylic on canvas, 2017
- Iulia Pană wearing the MoMa T-Shirt inscribed with the centopoem with several lines selected from one of her poems, 2014
- Suicidal Seagull, photo by Iulia Pană, April 2020
- Iulia Pană, Future Sound of Poetry, mixed media on paper, 2017
- James Augerot reading a selection of Iulia Pană's poems at the UW Bookstore in Seattle, October 1, 2016
More from Iulia Pană
My Black Box
I live in a black box…
With me and my body
The box is small and its cardboard has an uncanny almond scent
In the morning one can peek
through the small holes I dug during long depressive hours while waiting for the rain
The air passes through me and stays glued to the lid of the box
which changes the color into grey
In this temporary house I cannot receive guests… I hardly have enough oxygen for one creature And that is a fly…
Life in the box has its humor…
Locuiesc într-o cutie neagră...
Cu mine şi cu trupul meu
Cutia e mică şi cartonul are un ciudat miros de migdale
Dimineaţa se vede
prin găurile mici scobite cu greu în îndelungi
partide depresive ca şi cum n-aş aştepta decât ploaia
Suflă un aer prin mine... trece şi rămâne lipit pe capacul cutiei
ce îşi schimbă culoarea în gri
În locuinţa asta temporară nu pot primi pe nimeni... abia am oxigen
Pentru o singură fiinţă şi aceea e o muscă...
Viaţa în cutie are umorul ei...