Magda Carneci. Chaosmos.
IN CHAOSMOS, Magda Carneci has been equally well served in her U.S. debut by Richard Jackson's introduction, which describes major themes and effects of poems that create "a world that is chaotic on the local level and cosmically ordered on a larger scale" and by Adam J. Sorkin's translator's commentary, which places her in the context of Romanian poetry since the 1980s and discusses, in eloquent detail, the collaborative process of translation as "a transgressive effort not just to enter another's psyche empathetically and intellectually but literally to become it, to be another's tongue and soul in the target language."
This must have been far from easy, since in the final section, "A Vast Reader," Carneci calls for a remote polymath to "encompass in the dazzling crystalline lens of his single, all-embracing eye" everything in the universe, past, present, and future.
For herself and her fellows, the poet insists "That we see. That we live for ourselves in the moment. / The Here. The Now. / All at once. Instantaneously / In a flash. In no time. A long moment, eternal." This is one of the more sedate passages in the poems in "The Vision," her first section. In "Into the Body" she goes far beyond Whitman's desire to embrace all. Instead of singing herself, she desires in "A Sea of Flames" that everything possible will be "one single body, vast, pulsating, with one composite / Face." Identity dissolves in cosmic cycles disintegrating and renewing in eternal Big Bangs, "joyously transforming into one another, / into everything, into nothing, in a blinding vortex."
Part 2, "Cosmic Burial," uses some of the same images to describe the collapse of a love affair, the hope that a cycle will renew the fervor, and the desire to be consumed, to death or life, in "sun incandescent matrix fiery vulva."
The poems in part 3, "In the World," are, as the title indicates, more localized in setting, although some of the imagery carries over from the first two sections. On the whole, the poet is more willing to trust "my enormous insane hope" that "In the end / disorder reaches perfection." Or not, since the photographic print of the universe-a conceit that echoes the book's first poem--will be devoured by the mysterious "He" who recurs throughout the text.
The poems of Chaosmos call for two different and equally rewarding ways of reading: abandoning logical coherence in favor of wild movement in the first two sections; slowing down to savor the insights about more common experience, rather than atoms and galaxies, in the third.
Robert Murray Davis
University of Oklahoma