November 26, 2009

Home sweet home

Being particularly moody for the past three days and in a mental condition that could be qualified as mediocre (and only because I'm being gentle to myself) I decided I could use a break and do some chores around the house. I figured it could take the edge off my anger and anyway it was about time I redecorated, it's been almost two months since I moved in. By midnight, the house was a mess and so was I. My back still hurts because I insisted to move the sofa around the living room and find the perfect setting for the bookshelves. By 2 am, I had scrubbed and polished every inch of the apartment. I was pretty content with the result, so I moved on to doing the laundry. Big mistake. One hour later, my kitchen was practically flooded and in the morning I had some explaining to do in front of my neighbours. I had barely managed to recover after the pipe-changing trauma, and now this. So I called the owner to complain - she's very maternal and seems to have understood I'm not exactly skilled when it comes to house issues, and she sent someone over to look at the washing machine. Turns out it was not just the washing machine, but also the pipes in the kitchen, so as I'm writing these lines, my kitchen is a disaster, I'm in no mood to clean again, my back still hurts but I am very excited about having moved the desk next to the window. I have a splendid view of the Palace of Culture and Science. Tomorrow, some people from the telephone company will come over to fix some cables.
I'm looking forward to seeing what next week has in store for me.
Maybe it's time I painted the walls purple.

November 22, 2009


will be a very good year for cultural & artistic projects. The past few weekends spent in Kato were not only about fun & bartending & friends. I've become immune to most of the things happening around me, and for the first time in my life I feel focused and 100% involved. The ideas are not just in my head anymore, they've become a plan, I know what the next move is, and this gives me the feeling that everything - and anything - is possible. It's finally time I gave something back to the community :) It's gonna be loud, colorful and gorgeous.

November 15, 2009

Let's get out and vote

Next week we're supposed to go vote the future president of Ro. Of course this is a very popular topic, I can't avoid talking about it, yet again I can't be serious about it either, as the one thing that comes to my mind is one of my favourite South Park episodes ever.
The kids have to choose a new school mascot, Stan refuses to vote because the options are a giant douche and a turd sandwich, so he is banished from the city and ends up living with some PETA members somewhere in the woods. And there he finds out that it's always between some douche and some turd, they're the only ones who will suck up to make it so far in politics.

Here's the soundtrack of this week:

And P.S. I'm not voting, so please stop nagging me.

Turn on, tune in, drop out

I've tried to cope with the fact that on the reading list for my MA in Translation Studies there is not a single book on theory of translation, with the lack of updated information about translation techniques, even with the recommendation that we should ask Google for help when in doubt (I thought that goes somehow without saying, and even though I love Google and appreciate all the help & support, I can't actually base my academic career on his teachings). I did my best to translate contracts, letters of attorney, texts about companies and capital and memorandums of association, even texts about microscopes and tools and printers.
When I figured out this is all we'll be doing, I was very disappointed, for it has nothing to do with my future plans and the translations I see myself doing.
I also figured out that lately I've had very little time for myself, so everything I do outside work has to be meaningful and strongly connected to the things I plan to write and do in the following years. I can't afford to waste any more time, except for the 8 hours I spend in the office.
And that's why I'm done with that MA, taking the matter into my own hands and doing some reading on my own, while switching back to Philology, for the time being. And hopefully, by the time I start writing my PhD, I'll find myself at the right Uni, with a better reading list.

November 13, 2009

On poetry & events. From another world

Maybe I'm not the most optimistic person when it comes to literary events, then again, I did have some unfortunate experiences, both in Romania and in Poland. On the other hand, certain happenings and certain people - the ones who power these happenings - are the living proof that you can make a point, a valid statement and at the same time enjoy literature of the finest quality.
Although sometimes they might seem to come from another world. Because of such affirmations:
The thing is we managed rather quickly to convince everyone - that was basically the easiest thing, because very many institutions all around the world are interested to promote their poetry. It wasn’t that hard to convince people of the project and to get the network partners, and the partners we got in Germany, they were just convinced of the concept of an international network that promotes German poetry worldwide and at the same time getting poetry from everywhere else into Germany.
Meet Boris Nitzsche, one of the founders of - the poetry platform I was writing about after my return from Berlin. You can read the whole interview here and, if you read in Romanian, check out the next issue of Noua Literatura.

November 12, 2009

Brave New World

One of the best things about living in Warsaw, and not just anywhere in the city, but in my neat, recently refurbished apartment, is that on a Wednesday night you can just cross the street, sit down and listen to Timothy Garton Ash speaking about Europe and the art of bringing down walls.
The conference was organized by Krytyka Polityczna (Political Critique), which is Poland's largest left-wing circle of intellectuals and activists, an intellectual journal, a publishing house, a multimedia internet service and a socio-cultural center in Warsaw. They have recently moved to a new location, and so we became neighbours. The new headquarters are on Nowy Swiat street, hence the very inspired name - Nowy Wspanialy Swiat (Brave New World). The pub on the ground floor is the perfect place to hang out and have a few drinks after the meetings / workshops / conferences, so I think that after two months in Warsaw I finally found the place where I belong.

And a grumpy afternoon

About one month ago, the Romanian publisher of The Book & The Eye contacted me asking if I'd be interested in the organization of an event related to the two books, as The Eye has recently been released on the Romanian market. Of course I instantly said yes - how could I have been so foolish? I had written the most wonderful book-party-proposal for The Book, but the party never happened. So I let myself fooled for the second time, and came up with another idea for a book party. This time, it was even better, as the event was to take place during the Book Fair in Bucharest. So I got all excited and wrote the proposal, from the general concept of the party down to the details about posters and other printed materials.
In the meantime, they gave up the whole book party thing and replaced it with a presentation of the book(s) on the fairground, together with the other books in the SF & Fantasy collection. They still wanted me to speak at the event. I, on the other hand, didn't.
No wonder book events never manage to have a (numerous) public. Because publishers still think their job is done once the book is printed, and most of the times they lack strategy, innitiative and courage. And a business plan. Literature does need these things, at least from time to time, but it is advisable to have them on a regular basis, if we expect people to buy books and, well, read them.

The grumpiest morning of them all

November is a very tough month to handle in Poland. I don't remember it being so problematic back in Romania, what I do remember is that last year I wanted to forget this month ever existed in my calendar. By the end of it, I was totally depressed and it took me quite a lot to get over the mess in my head and get back to my old self.
Luckily, this year things seem to be going a little better, not in the way that my days start with a boost of energy and enthusiasm, but rather in the way that they don't end in tears or dissatisfaction.
However, an unexpected twist of events is threatening my stability and forcing me to step out of my comfort zone, thus raising my anxiety level.
For some reason, the administrator of my building decided November was a good time for us to change the pipes in our flats. This leads to a series of complications, from the mere fact that you can't take one step outside without looking dustier and messier than the workers who actually do work and you'd expect them to be dusty and messy, to new sleeping behaviours, as most likely, starting 7 a.m., there'll be some banging, smashing and drilling that's impossible to ignore. And let's not forget that water supplies are scarce and you never know when the taps run dry. It may very well be on a morning like this. I think it was before 7 that a bunch of joyful workers knocked on my door, just to check if the pipes were ok and to see if the wall needs refurbishing (the answers are yes and yes). Then I heard some strange noise and for a second I thought the whole building would collapse. Let's say I could have lived with that, but not managing to rinse my hair properly and using only leave-in conditioner, now that sucks big time.
So I sort of solve the hair problem, leave the house without drinking my coffee, 15 minutes later I'm at the office, only to find out that the building is being refurbished.
It's not even noon and I'm exhausted, I have a bad hair day, I hate drinking my first coffee at the office, the weather is extra-shitty and in exactly 10 minutes I have a meeting.
Still, I'm very happy I'm not depressed. Over the years, I've had quite a reasons to cry, most of them fictional, true, nevertheless I considered them good reasons. But I've never cried because of pipes and it wasn't exactly something I was striving to add to the list.

P.S. I just published this post on the Learn Polish With Sam & Bilus blog :)

November 3, 2009

Berlin, part 2: all the other experiences

So we've had our fair share of poetry. We found out stuff about cultural organizations and projects, we met some very cool people and experienced the kind of professional yet laid back and relaxed attitude which leads to things getting done with double the fun.
But we weren't there just for the poems and the music.
Despite the fact that I can't stand hearing German - I find it very irritating, which might sound odd, coming from someone who's practically mad about a Slavic language that's not exactly beautiful either - I have to say I caught the virus. I finally understood why some of my best friends were so excited about Berlin. The city is exceptionally user friendly, inspiring and tonic. And even though it may seem random, rather like a puzzle with misfitting pieces, it's so wonderfully organized, that it's impossible to feel at a loss. It feels just right from the very first minutes, as if there was a different Berlin for each, perfectly adapting and adjusting itself to its people. No wonder it felt so familiar from the moment I got off the train. And this is highly unusual for me, since I get anxious in new places, at least until I get to taste their coffee, which is my dating ritual when it comes to cities. Berlin and I could have been a perfect match, if only it didn't speak German.

Since I only had little time to explore it, I decided to give up the "act-like-a-local" routine and adopt the "act-like-the-tourist-that-you are" routine. I must say I find the first one rather overrated, now they even print maps for tourists who want to act like locals, and taking into account the fact that I only had one day and a few hours at my disposal, in this particular situation it was useless to pretend I was something else than a mere tourist.

Meeting Ana was definitely one of the highlights. Since we no longer get to spend that much time together, we seem to have developed a pattern for our once in a blue moon meetings. First there's this unbelievably quick download of information, just to make sure we're updated so that we can actually start talking. Then comes the smart part, which most of the times means we come up with a project or a plan or at least an article that we write together. Later on, there's finally room for other people. This time, there was room for the poets. They turned out to be a cheerful and very entertaining companionship, just perfect for late night walks and talks, so it was pretty much predictable we'd be kicked out of the last pub that was still open and end up in one of the hotel rooms, talking and laughing and drinking our night away. Strangely enough, once we're done with the intellectual and social aspects of our meeting, there seems to be a system malfunction on both sides which most of the times leads to nonsense. This time, we ended up buying Hello Kitty liquid candy and identical caps so that we can be telepathic. Luckily, we were quickly back on track and managed to focus on the interviews and the cover stories we were to write.

The caps did work: back in our respective cities, we were both depressed. I was back in Warsaw on a particularly weird day - All Saints Day, when there's no one in the streets, no shops are open, and it's a challenge to find an open pub. Fortunately, I was quickly brought back to reality, mostly because a friend of mine told me there's no ideal time or place to start doing something - you just have to do it. And that's exactly how it's going to be.

November 1, 2009

Berlin, part 1: the reading experience

I admit I was a bit skeptical. Even though I agree poems are meant to be listened to, I had my doubts about the 5-hour poetry marathon in Berlin. I arrived at Kulturbrauerei at about midnight, to find a packed room, a great audience and a relaxed atmosphere, no signs of boredom or tediousness. It was quite amazing to see all those people who had gathered for a literary night- less than two weeks ago I had a very unpleasant experience in Warsaw, at an event organized by one of the most important publishing houses on the market. Not to mention a series of previous unfortunate episodes, hence my skepticism. But there was no use questioning the good vibe, so I just sat down and listened.

By the end of it, I was convinced of the brainwashing capacities of poetry. I was happy and light and my mood had radically changed. I don't know if it was the poetry, or the fact that I was once again hanging out with people who, to a certain extent, spoke the same language as I did.

All that mattered was that we were in Berlin, Ana and I were finally back in business, ready to explore the wonders of the city, to plan and debate and come up with ideas, skip sleep and make the best of that weekend. We had books and chocolate, so there was little to complain about.
And there was room for poetry on the second night. This time, celebrating the 10th anniversary of, a platform making poetry available on the Internet: 600 poets, 5500 poems, 50 mother tongues and 6600 translations in about 50 languages. The project started small, with no significant budget, but with a great deal of support from local authorities and cultural institutions who simply believed in the power of artistic projects. Or, as one of the organizers put it, they knew Berlin would be nothing without its artists.
" has successfully addressed the seemingly impossible task of linking poetry, the oldest literary art form there is, with the newest form of communication, the Internet. At the push of a button it is now possible to listen to poems read by the author in his or her native tongue"
The event, held (where else?) in a former factory, was absolutely impressing. Simple, to the point, with no faults in organization, bringing together nine poets from all corners of the world and making their poetry available not only in the club, but also on the internet. The after party was one of those parties you don't really feel like leaving, which might explain why I only got one hour of sleep before I was back on the train to Warsaw, a bit sad because it was over, but very content at having seen that it is possible to make things happen.

P.S. I failed in my mission of finding a wheelbarrow (which is odd, half of Berlin is under construction, it shouldn't have been a problem), so I figured the least I could do was to show up at a poetry party wearing my Taczka Runners uniform.