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March 22, 2023

A Poetic Tour de Force

By Daniel Deleanu

In Aferim, George V. Precup’s ninth original collection of poetry, published in Bucharest by Eikon Press, the poet takes us into a fictional world awash with nostalgia, where an existential consummation is sensed even from the first pages. This ontological intensity is maintained by the author across the entire volume. A modern tale in verse is afoot here, and the poet’s intensity is inked down on paper as a tonic incursion into his own selfhood, rather than into the external world. For what Precup has managed to assemble in this book is a textual mirror in which his innermost feelings are projected, building as such a secret world wherein the reader walks along the flimsy borderline that separates the real from the imaginary. It is a world that George V. Precup knows very well, a secret poetic realm which the author has enticed us to explore, on an oneiric journey that is still going on at full throttle, ever since his 1992 debut volume, Emiratele Visului (Dream’s Emirates).

From the get-go, the reader of Precup’s poems is informed that in his verses the sacred and the profane shake hands, and that their “house of being” (cf. Heidegger), which is a magical realm, is filled, in a non-Manichean way, with both light and darkness: “Those like us find happiness in pieces/the fears of slipping from fragments no one can see/they sense the sunrise in their sleep,/startling as if touched by some enchanted powder./…/Those who can hear our remote wildernesses fail to recall./Those who can see, don’t./We walk on willow feet/the air is trembling around our eyes.//With a whisper you can bewitch the world, with more – I don’t know.//May our name be our whisper-bearer” (The Whisper-Bearers). According to the poet, the persistent, unless outright blatant, fact that fate is one’s own making cannot make us humans acknowledge our impotence in front of the powers of the dark, and thus we can neither avoid transgressions nor remedy the wrongs before the flood of iniquity comes. The poet therefore confesses the world and its turpitude in the very atmosphere of his febrile poetic search – delirious almost – through a plethora of images of torturous voluptuousness, in which he depicts himself in the grotesque posture of an absconding egolatry. The author transposes as such the elements of reality into another world, the fictional one, by means of a self-parodic code: “He carries his days on his back/he’s turned the nights he’ll unwind yonder into scrolls./I can’t even remember how many times I’ve looked through his eyes,//he puts words into me as if he were a sower/but I always find their meanings.//We meet in a pub/where each of us orders something else,/but we’re served the same drink./‘Cheers!’, he says./…/I carry my days on my back,/turning the nights I’ll unwind yonder into scrolls./‘Cheers!’ I say./He replies wordlessly,//While the pub spins, getting ready to take off” (The Doppelganger).

The picture of impending existential perils that constantly vacillate and bend are omnipresent in the pages of Aferim, weaving in and out in a mesmerizing portrayal of life as it is, with both shiny and gloomy days. This existentialist touch maintains a steady thrum throughout the book. This existentialist dimension in fact gives in-depth knowledge about the way the poet construes his presence in the world, which is often sprinkled, at the meta-textual level, with puns, self-parodic urges, clever quips, and sundry historical allusions: “I write with the blood from the 6000-year-old inkpot./Above my menhirs/the enchanted air yields yellow blossoms,/spreads out subtle venoms.//An envoy of nothingness,/I endeavour to attract the unseen//While someone else copies down to the last detail the poet in me/And wears me on himself as if I were holy water.//And then we kneel down together in the geometry of some eerie laughter” (Wordless). There is a kind of aesthetic hierophany in these lines, which is congruent with those presented in the religious plane. To prove that the self-reflection of the poem is faithful to the poem as such, we can follow the way it opens up on other two planes, namely being and nonbeing. And there are aesthetically refined clues in Precup’s verses for both of them, as one can infer for oneself from these semantically rich lines: “She is the place where Paradise begins and ends.//It’s not marked on any known map. Those/who master memory have been long looking for her/…/She kept coming/but… her passing never occurred…/That is why they called her ‘The Bodiless Beauty’://Paradise began and ended with her” (Fragment from a Manuscript Lost in the Light).

Sometimes the poetic creation is regenerated by running away from itself. This poem sometimes wishes to peel off the skin of verbal combinations that seemed to carry its identity, to the surprise of the unwary who believe that in this way its textual body could no longer survive. In the latter case, it renounces its depth, which now turns into externality, i.e. into rhetoric. An increasingly uncomfortable corneous layer subsequently prevents the outbreak of living energies, the eruption of the unpredictable that still has no name, as Jean-Pierre Richard notes in his book Poésie et profondeur: “Through explosion, flight, bursting, metamorphosis, laconism, revolt, the poet tries to build a world without depth, a universe freed from origins and nostalgia.” Thence, it is perhaps better to reflect here on the origins of the poet’s lyricism and the nostalgia of its consecrated forms. Because Geroge V. Precup attempts to embrace the ineffable origins of poetry and, with its irrepressible nostalgia, of being itself: “Loneliness is our homeland.//Should we breathe more heavily, it would shatter/to smithereens./We call out, ‘Father! Mother!’,/and thus we feel gentler and kinder,/recalling her, the one who used to walk amongst us/with a nail kerchief around her neck./…/We, the slaves of dreams – the children are gone now./We’ve disremembered our nature, its shameful parts” (Obsession).

Generally, in poetry the relationship of human consciousness with the sacred includes two major aspects: the immediate experience of a superessential reality, as a certitudo ex se ipsis, which transcends the subject-object relationship, and the experience thanks to which, keeping itself in a split reality, the subject can awaken through transparency of the object. The first situation can be called ontological, the second is called by Paul Tillich “the cosmological way of approaching the sacred.” The ontological formula appears in the Biblical sentence “I am what I am,” while according to traditional societies, it is defined through its conjecture, namely as “Deus and esse coincide.” It is in fact the latter that which is ubiquitously reflected throughout Precup’s poetry: “He had a celestial map he’d found in a hollow.//And, beholding the sky, he strove to comprehend the incomprehensible./…/And there was a beginning and an end…/And since the sky was not exactly as he thought it was, he began to/draw a new map” (The Map).

In Aferim, George V. Precup proves again that he is an amazing writer whose poetic output is lush with the heady fresh scents of mid-spring flowers. Whether searingly ecstatic or glacially abstract, Precup’s poetry is surprizing beyond belief. Moreover, the reader can see Precup’s creative maturity as he ages into spirituality, and thus can marvel even more at his poetic force, which is so handsomely represented in this book.


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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