By Daniel Deleanu
In his most recent volume of poetry, Amintiri cu poduri (Memories with Bridges, Cluj-Napoca: Neuma Press, 2021), Horia Gârbea evinces a great expressive intensity, an incandescence of speech maintained without interruption athwart the entire collection. Gârbea treats the affects in a self-directed way, as if they were objects in themselves. Trying to transgress the borderline between the real and the unreal, he ultimately remains in the domain of the latter, where he experiences the factual as an illusion, that is, as the phantasm of a phantasm. His mundane, unless downright chthonic, spirit is fatally resorbed at times by the figurative process displayed by his poetry, which possesses its own ontology. Being is, as such, only fictitiously tangible. The poet’s ardent cries, somewhat reminiscent of Federico García Lorca, have their nonchalant calligraphy, since the only thing that matters, in this plane of aestheticized disclosures, is a demonstrative – i.e. spectacular, but not in a thespian sense – premise, which, in the absence of honesty, would perhaps have turned out to be a disarming cliché. Gârbea, nonetheless, is well aware of this compositional peril, and he platitudinizes neither his ideas nor his emotions, as one can learn from this unpretentious, and thereby truly beautiful, ars poetica: “poetry comes into being when/summer evenings/begin to smell/intensely of the past//poetry is that which/drips into a glass/and clears the wine/until it turns invisible//poetry is a bird/which forgot how to sing/and thus becomes/its own lost song.”
Although tattooed from top to bottom with the marks of the real, the poet is driven by a visionary spirit, by a painful enchantment that suits his verses well. So, according to the author’s poetic Shadow – in a Jungian sense –, ideal life does not involve the abandonment of the real one though. As a result, not once, these verses get immersed in some sublime numinous foam, and when that happens, they take the shape of a Zen koan: “isao nagasaki was/a wise man/who often/liked to smile/[…] wise man, a poet/from a distant country/in europe/wrote about you/ a poem/[…] he wrote that you are a wise man/and that you smile all the time/that’s what the young people told him/nagasaki asked them//does it write anywhere/for what reason i’m smiling/not at all, the others said/there’s nothing written about that//that’s fine/replied nagasaki/and continued to smile” (nagasaki’s smile). Though candid, Horia Gârbea nevertheless rises above the contacts with the invoked reality in order to form his own poetic language. And yet, he does not try to impose a luxuriant order on it, nor to give it a mellow interior, nor to replace the overwhelming muteness of the flesh, nor to transform its occasional foul scent into heady perfumes. For the poet, it suffices to retain only the ephemeral calligraphy of a transcendence that was sometimes denied to him. That is why his verses often have a formidable propulsive power, like an arrow that gets lost in a cerulean immensity.
Stylistically, Gârbea is at his best when he operates, even unconsciously, a conjunction between surrealism and expressionism. From the former he extracts the freedom of associations, and from the latter an unnerving cosmic breath, that elemental absurdity that inflates the sails of his poeticized angst, even though he knows well how to camouflage it. Surrealist notations generally bear the stamp of an ontic entanglement, of a hardness that reduces their floating gratuitousness, the vagueness in which the dream of the Zen-like Void can wander at will. To the above-described poetic dictum is added, reflexively, the obsessive reaction of an identity crisis, from which appears that typical mixture of dematerialization and spectral materialization that characterizes the poetry of the entire volume: “now i’ve finally understood/that absolute justice/cuts like a sword/that a belief can enslave you/that the equal sign cancels the elite/that health/especially sanity/lies in the vicinity of platitude/while freedom is always/misunderstood//now i know/that idleness/is as sweet as a lie/when you’re praised/that without violence/you cannot do good/and, once more, that to make/the smart equal to the foolish/is an error//i’ve learned/that there are slaves/happier than/their masters/but above all i know well/that my struggle/and the understanding/– but that came very late –/of its futility/cannot be avoided/so they are called/very simply: life” (my struggle). Or this recording of the splitting of the ego, projected in a fantastic tripling, wherein the specular illusion of poetry induces the illusion of the real: “the angel listened/to all the three of them/he gave the first/a flower that smelled/of all the past//to the second/he gave a glass so transparent/that it seemed to not even exist//to the third/he gave a mute bird/and the gift of being able to listen/to its songs/which were as rough as the clash of two shields” (the gifts).
In Amintiri cu poduri (Memories with Bridges), Horia Gârbea does not only self-mythologize, but also lets us know, without deserting the aesthetic grounds though, that he has something to say about where we, the inhabitants of the Global Village (cf. McLuhan), have ended up. This is not engaged poetry, nor even protest poetry, but poetry that raises questions, both existential and societal, and some of these questions are asked by those whose faces, as the English saying goes, never fit, individuals with whom Horia Gârbea finds common ground. In fact, if you give it some more thought, that’s most of us. At any rate, those among us who are confused by what has been going on. Personal, but not detached, sardonic and yet well-measured, funny and at the same time thought-provoking, these poems comprise all the ingredients which good poetry must contain.
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.