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December 9, 2022

The Textual Hourglass and Its Poetic Ontology

By Daniel Deleanu

Costel Simedrea is a poet who, though writing since his teen years, made his editorial debut relatively late, at the age of 51. Since then, the bard from Reşiţa has published no less than 16 books, making his name known all over the country. Simedrea is a sentimental poet from the “old school,” whose lyrical verses, which may seem a bit antiquated to some, reveal a romantic soul whose oneiric states are sprinkled with a sweet nostalgia. The poet is thus not embarrassed to make use of classical prosody, which fits seamlessly in the textual assembly of his poems, whose euphony is a distinctive mark that can also be savoured in his 2020 book titled Plecarea din clepsidră (Deserting the Hourglass), released by Hoffman Press from Caracal, a surprisingly good publishing house which is worth our full attention, be it only for their reprinting of a series of forgotten authors of great literary merit, such as Sidonia Drăgusanu or Pavel Dan, but also of truly gifted contemporary writers, e.g. Sorin Titel, or classics of a departed epoch, such as Panait Istrati or Zaharia Stancu, unfairly circumvented by other publishers because of their political options.

At the centre of Simedrea’s romance music-infused collection is an escape to a poetic realm where feelings are no longer unheeded and love is no more a sacrilege, as it often occurs in the humdrum world wherein nowadays we lead our lives. These poems therefore display a variety of signature tunes, and this thematic diversity is one of the fortes of Simedrea’s volume. For there are here sharp echoes of the classics – of the Romantics especially –, but also of the Modernists from the 1960s, whom the poet must truly hold dear: “I’m still looking for you in an olden unreality/Lost between yesterday and today./By the cup which is now full of dewdrops/A great silence stands on guard” (Cup Full of Dewdrops) or “Even if I know it is late,/I pick up the dried-up words from myself,/During those hours when I desire to write/About what’s passed and what’s impossible” (The End of a Poem) or “Friends, I’m old this evening,/So I let the sand leave the hourglass surreptitiously,/And each grain of sand appears to be begging/A chunk of destiny from me” (Grains of Sand). Recurrently, Plecarea din clepsidră (Deserting the Hourglass) will offer a line or a whole poem bursting with agony and sorrow: “Unmoving imaginings on the paper turned yellow,/Pressed between the mournful covers,/All that’s left is the remnant of an eternity,/’Tis the hour when everything else is beyond reach…” (Vague Heresies).

The poet’s favourite season is, undoubtedly, autumn, whose wistful charms he sings in several of the poems gathered by him in this collection: “Nomad leaf, moribund leaf,/When the end of the game is written on the asphalt!//Tolling deeply in the cracked bells,/Injuring the last dream’s twilight” (The End of the Game). The autumnal setting is, however, more than a mere lyric setting which resonates with the gloomy humours of the poet. On the contrary, the fall encapsulates the answers – or lack thereof – to the great existential inquiries, and subsequently it gains a chthonic dimension, not much different from that of the Symbolist poets: “The sky is flowing down into the earth,/Just as I flow from self to self/Like a heavy curtain of shadows…//The part is rejoining the whole/Flowing through the glassy neck of each second/And it’ll bring an answer to the oldest of questions” (Happenings within the Hour Glass). The hourglass, in fact, becomes a chief leitmotif in Costel Simedrea’s book, for it bears the imagery of the pointlessness of existence, whose futile unboundedness is even as the sand blown by a squall: “Out of the shattered hourglass, useless from now on,/The sand’s gone chasing chimaeras./The wind has turned another page in the book,/Returning to eternity its short-lived words” (One Night in a Tale).

Costel Simedrea may write a type of poetry which he perhaps garbs in the lyrical attire of a bygone era, but those who criticize his so-called “anachronism” forget that poetry is by definition a fabulous territory which dwells in an illo tempore, that is, in a time without time. Praised in România Literară for this book by Gheorghe Grigurcu, the pontiff of the Romanian critics of poetry, Costel Simedrea is a poet whose textual hourglass is never empty, and consequently his presence in the space of Romanian contemporary letters does count.


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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