Poetry Matters

NEW Writers’ Group Inc Gathering September 2022,  Poetry Matters, was led by Romanian Australian poet and editor, Mihaela Cristescu, who shared reflections on the significance of poetry. The group talked seriously about favourite poems before turning playful with limericks and making poetry from prose.

To open the session, Mihaela spoke of the development of language and poetry, citing academic debate from thinkers such as the Romanian Mircea Eliade (1907-1986) who linked the origins of poetry to early creation stories expressed in dance and rhythmic sounds.

She reminded us of our access to the history of  written poetry starting with the ancient: Pyramid texts, Epic of Gilgamesh, Chinese Shijing (Book of Songs), Hebrew Psalms, Greek Iliad and Odyssey,  Mahabharata (Sanskrit Epic).

‘From the first written verse until contemporary poetry, we have tried to understand the importance of different forms of expression and their impact on readers and listeners.’ M. Cristescu.

We can list poetry genres with long histories:  Narrative, Dramatic, Lyric, Epic, Elegy,  Satirical, Ekphrasis and comment that  Prosody is commonly less likely now to follow a prescribed structure, however many poets choose from a range: they’ll compose a sonnet, a tanka, a contemporary Bush poem, a verse novel and Slam poetry …

We know too, that written records are not the only trove. For example, ‘Aboriginal Australians are known world-wide for their creativity in music, art, dance and distinctive story-telling – they celebrate the teachings of oral heritage that reach from ancient origins into contemporary practice.’S.E. Crawford.

Mihaela told us about her University days in Romania when she studied The Canterbury Tales, Metaphysical Poets  egJohn Donne), Shakespeare, Romantic Poetry and the Lake Poets, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Keats, Blake, Browning and later Yeats, plus a ‘long and very interesting course about T.S.Eliot and his poetry’ that differed from the past greats with its modernist fragmentation, multiple voices, contradictory references and free verse form’.   

Mihaela’s own choice of a ‘favourite poem’ was the famous Luceafarul  ‘Legend of the Evening Star’ by Romanian National Poet Mihai Eminescu (1850-1889). She read aloud excerpts in Romanian so we could listen to the cadence of the original verse and also in English – so we could understand the narrative.

The English translation by Adrian G. Sahlean (Boston, USA) was published in ‘The Painstaking Chronophage’, Bucharest, Romania, 2014 (see photo). The volume won the Book-of-the-Year award from the Romanian Writers Union in 2015. See also Mihai Eminescu – The Legend of the Evening Star & Selected Poems: translations by Adrian G. Sahlean 

Mihaela Cristescu is the Secretary of NEW Writers’ Group Incorporated which is based in Parramatta. She is on the selection team for ZineWest and is the co-ordinator and chief editor of a series of Romanian/Australian anthologies see Code-Mixing Poetry. She is a widely published bi-lingual poet, editor and translator.