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December 8, 2022

When the Image Turns into Words: A Fascinating and Enlightening Poetic Journey

By Daniel Deleanu

Teona Galgoțiu is not only a poetess, but also an actress and filmmaker. She studied film directing at the Caragiale Academy of Theatrical Arts and Cinematography. Her short films were screened in such festivals as the Bucharest International Experimental Film Festival, Cinemaiubit, Manaki Brothers Festival, or the Alternative Film/Video Festival. Galgoțiu also co-organizes the Super International Film Festival and Film Menu. Concurrently, she is the coordinating brain behind the Super Poetry Workshop, one of the most important events on the Romanian poetic scene, especially for the youngest generation of poets, to whom she in fact belongs. Kicked off in 2016, Galgoțiu’s latest project, Gura Mare (Big Mouth), consists of an online platform which invites poets/artists to create videopoems. Co-curated by Andrei Dósa, the project aims to bridge poetry and film.

Teona Galgoțiu’s Mă uit înapoi și dispare (I Look Back and It Vanishes, Cluj-Napoca: OMG Press, 2020), her debut volume, has been greeted by the critics as a literary event, and rightly so. Galgoțiu, who was the recipient of Euphorion journal’s Iustin Panța Prize in 2021, has undoubtedly become a noteworthy presence in today’s poetry, being appreciated by the critics as one of the most promising young Romanian poets.

Galgoțiu is a poetess of the extremes: her confessional overindulgences are counterpointed by textual moderations, whereas various salient limit-situations are pitted against ungermane existential plights. Thus, she frets about how she is coping with everyday life, notifying us, with lots of details, about the conflicts she is experiencing and about what she is going through, trapped in a claustrophobic and peril-filled environment. Whether these conflicts are domestic or not, they are always rendered by the poetess with a tinge of existential irony, as one can infer from the following excerpt, where the conflict between generations is funnily – and quite wittily, I’d say – set against a technological quandary. To be more precise, its two protagonists make tentative steps towards addressing each other, despite their age gap, but soon discover that the communication is impeded by a wall which is not only electronic, but also of a subtler and more psychological nature than she could have ever imagined: “dad asks me on messenger/are you aware that you can hurt someone/and that you shall unavoidably end up hurting someone?//since he signed up for facebook he’s been sending me/long messages/about gloom and art, followed by lots of flower emoji/to which i reply with a happy face emoji/then i picture him as a child and i bet that/no matter how strong his imagination was/he never thought that at an old age he’d have/these monologues in a blue box/with tons of autocorrects and suspension points/at which i gape for a long time without ever knowing/what to reply.”

The emotional tussles confessed by the authoress in other poems have a similar experience at their core, albeit one that outweighs the incongruities expounded in the lines quoted above, in terms of both scope and enduring impact. The poetic ego is therefore the acousmatic bearer of emotional scars which are the outcome of a guilt complex that burdens the authoress with the haunting notion that her fate is to live, as Cioran would put it, with the curse of having been born: “guilt is like riding a bike/it’s like god/you don’t forget it, you don’t see it/but it’s always here/on the throne.” And, indisputably, the only antidote to guilt is, according to the poetess, atonement, since it alone possesses redemptive worth: “penitence only works if you take it to the end/to imagine is to be absent/in order to blast yourself into a new life/you can rummage the earth with your face/till you no longer feel it/the punishment, no matter what, will still be in waiting,/immobile on the bottom of the lake.”

In spite of her irony, Galgoțiu demonstrates grave empathy and understanding when she refers to others, rendering them in their true colours and never allowing them to appear as one-dimensional stickmen devoid of personality and capable of anecdote, not dialogue. Instead, these significant others are presented, somewhat oxymoronically, as unique individuals with multi-faceted identities, strives, and ways of relating themselves to the world. This idiosyncratic perspective is subsequently conducive to an inquiry into one’s ontological conditioning, as to what extent their situations have been pre-set by lot and circumstance, as it occurs in these verses, which are full of existential gist: “up there beneath the glass mountain top/my friends who ran away from home sleep hanging down/my friends with marks on their soles necks and wrists/they’ve been asleep for long/they’re motionless and full of light/it’s warm inside, and there’s enough oxygen/the leaves in the ceiling crumble sluggishly,/freckle lays down on their faces/and in their blue mouths/and on their clothes carefully folded/and given away to the animals from the other side/of the mountain/they’re pure and naked and hanging down/one can see them through the glass, but the glass is thick though.” As for the complex relationship that is forged between self and other,  the poetess treats it in the same fashion, namely through a cracked kaleidoscopic lens, since this alone can rid one of the speciousness that usually dominates one’s perception of reality: “some people stare at me and leer inanely/as if they were unable to say exactly/what’s happened/other people doze off/their mauve and green veins/slipping in and out like a tongue//these folks laugh hysterically when i tell them/i beg your pardon/but you’ve got something on your forehead/then they touch the entire area surrounding the hole/with short and quick fingers.”

The force of the imagery utilized by the poetess and her stylistic articulacy are often surprising, as she, unlike most of her generational peers, does not refrain from fully expressing her feelings, which then ideate the texts in a fashion which is both uncensored and unbridled, especially when the poetic voice that enlivens them turns Platonically anamnestic: “i no longer remember if i was sweating/because of the weather/or if i was embarrassed to take off my jacket/so you might see so much of my skin/even though i knew you’d see it/soon//i threw a party when you touched my head/i still think each day of your hand/on my head/of the distance between the two of them/the two of them in separation/and the two of them together.” Galgoțiu, however, does not present a fleshed-out persona to the reader, and this aspect adds a powerful momentum to her poems, as one can learn from such lines as these: “i gazed into each streetlamp/and now, when i look at people again/they all have a hole in the centre of their foreheads//without blood and bewilderment/without panic and bandages.” Light, as a matter of fact, is a true leitmotif in this collection, and, via a hyperbolic antinomy, speaks candidly of compulsive urges and inner demons. Thereupon, it would probably not be too farfetched to say that Galgoțiu never skirts around a topic in her poetic quests, nor is she too evasive in their textual renditions, even when reification becomes a central point in her oneiric conception of the world that surrounds her: “the light slashes off the edge of each object/and look and behold how it rebuilds,/patiently and without repulsion,/the asphalt from my dream – it was hot/and i knew that one day i’d reach over there.”

Teona Galgoțiu’s Mă uit înapoi și dispare (I Look Back and It Vanishes) is, beyond any shadow of a doubt, a remarkable accomplishment, and this is not only due to the fact that the book is her poetic debut. In fact, Galgoțiu’s poetry is mature enough, being not only inspired and profound, but also deftly crafted, a combination which is truly impressive, since it commendably takes the reader on an equally fascinating and enlightening poetic journey.


About the author:


Daniel Deleanu is a Romanian-Canadian writer and academic who sways between Toronto and his native town of Sibiu.

He has published articles, reviews and critical studies in cultural journals and academic journals from Romania and abroad (USA, Canada and Great Britain).

He has also published more than 1,300 academic books (critical studies of universal and comparative literature, studies of philosophy of literature, theory of literature, etc.) in English language, most of them in Canada.



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