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December 8, 2022

An (Al)chemist Poet

By Daniel Deleanu

Cosmin Andrei Tudor is a young Romanian writer who, at the age of 25, has already made a name for himself through the two books he’s published, namely a volume of poetry titled Ochilor verzi (To the Green Eyes, Bucharest: Cartea Românescă Press, 2019), rewarded with a well-deserved prize by the Romanian Writers’ Union, and a collection of short stories, Balerina (The Ballet Dancer, Cluj-Napoca: Neuma Publishing House, 2021). Rumour has it that he is also preparing a collection of plays for print (unless he has already done that).

Tudor’s second book of poetry, Ludi (Cluj-Napoca: Neuma Publishing House, 2021) is vibrant with a sensibility infused, above all else, with a muffled passion, an Olympian detachment whose serenity is somewhat uncharacteristic to Tudor’s age. If the poet, or better said the poetic ego, does flirt with the idea of passion, this libidinal ache, in a more Jungian than Freudian sense, is decidedly subdued. Tudor is, as such, a poet who sings the beauty of exactness and rigorousness, or rather of the ludic element that can surprisingly be detected in them. The title of the collection that is being analyzed herein clearly evinces just that. And this comes as no surprise, for Cosmin Andrei Tudor is a man of science who is pursuing a PhD in chemistry. The self-evident sobriety of his poems is therefore programmatic, and this axiomatic brevity serves him well. For Tudor knows how to make a veritable spectacle out of the mathematicist qualia of his curt but semantically rich verses.

The sections of the book, seductively titled “Preludiu” (Foreplay), “Postludiu” (Afterplay), “Interludiu” (Interplay) and “Metaludiu” (Metaplay), comprise poems whose common denominator, thematically speaking, is either love or seemingly banal existentialist queries, which, quite often, are a pretext for more complex and infinitely more rewarding meditations on the purposelessness of life. These poems are structurally simple, but not simplistic though. In fact, their beauty resides in exactly this simplicity, which bears the resplendent purity of a crystal. So, if they lack tropes, it is because these poems form a trope in themselves, at a larger scale. From this perspective, they look like chemical formulae and, of course, this, again, should not come as a surprise. For Tudor, poetry is not even a gauge with which one can scan, or at least test, the world – because this would be too sophisticated; for him, poetry is more of a measuring rod with which he can assess its futility in order to formalize it via a concise and witty labelling, as one can observe in these lines, which could very well be an ars poetica of the entire poetic output collected by the author in this volume: “any philosopher/is sentenced/to think all over again/about everything and start anew./that’s how skeptical he is.” Pure reasoning, in a Kantian sense, is to the poet much more than a form of cogito, whether Cartesian or not. To him, thinking is a modus vivendi, since only through one’s mental faculties can one, if not comprehend the world, at least deconstruct its innermost assemblies and subsequently attempt to construe it, i.e. play its existential glass bead game (so inspiredly pictured on the book cover!), just as in Hermann Hesse’s eponymous novel. Tudor’s poetry thus unfolds to the reader as a reflective act, not so much personalized, but rather universal since it appears to be based on a series of archetypal apophthegms, even though they also contain a great dose of acerbity: “boredom and philosophy/go/hand in hand/on the sidewalk of/thought” or “out of an inexplicable fear of emptiness/a mauve thought is born/a thought which fills the room./enough that it’s unbreathable./the mouthful/of air/is about to die out./and you feel how everything turns mauve./the more you strive/to jot down a word on paper/the more you suffocate.”

In a recent book review published in România Literară, the poet and critic Horia Gârbea has written that the poems penned by Cosmin Andrei Tudor are so original because they are based on a logic that has been turned “upside down.” According to Gârbea, this overturned logic creates a sort of “minimalist” humour which is “intelligent” and thereby of “good quality,” as in the following excerpt: “I look at the world,/and wonder:/what did the author want to say?” or in this “nanopoem,” as the author calls it: “dreaming/reality is born.” The bareness of the poetic texts, which has the bizarre beauty of a deciduous tree, making one think of Roland Barthes’ Le Degré zéro de l’écriture (Writing Degree Zero), concurs with the numinous otherworldliness created by Tudor in his texts, which refuse themselves any form of redemption, and from this point of view they can be likened to Nichita Stănescu’s notion of antimetaphysics, especially when a cosmic chronotope (cf. Mikhail Bakhtin) is poetically conjured up: “time is the least/dense fluid./not only does it occupy the volume of the container into which it is poured/but it can also/annul its own volume,/leaving the container neither full/nor empty,/but just confused.”

Cosmin Andrei Tudor’s poems remind me as well of the Paradoxist poems of Florentin Smarandache, the Romanian mathematician-poet who is also an academic at the University of New Mexico. But Romanian letters have already boasted a mathematician-poet hypostasized by Ion Barbu (the pen name of Dan Barbilian). Now they take pride in Cosmin Andrei Tudor, who is a chemist-poet. And if, in the arcane world of poetry, Ion Barbu has been a Hermeticist, Cosmin Andrei Tudor, given his talent for ludically transmuting words into genuine poetry, is par excellence an alchemist whose Philosopher’s Stone is his unique ars poetica.


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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