Constanta Project

Following the award of an Arts Council England and The British Council AIDF (Artists’ International Development Fund) grant in July 2018 I visited Constanta, Romania, to give a lecture at The 1st Annual Conference on Exile in Comparative Literature and the Arts, organised by Anticus Multicultural Association. Since then I’ve been in correspondence and working with a number of partners (including Taner Murat and Anticus Multicultural Association, Lidia Vianu and Contemporary Literature Press, Chris Tanasescu and Iulia Milituru from frACTalia press) on two publications. The first (to be published in March 2018 by Lidia Vianu and Contemporary Literature Press, the online publishing house of the University of Bucharest) will be a free online book exploring dislocation, with specific reference to Ovid (who was exiled to Constanta and died 2000 years ago) and to translations of his verses by two English poets who suffered different forms of dislocation. The online book contains comparisons of translations, plus notes in the form of verses.

Ovid composed in Augustan times,

Offended the Emperor, and was exiled.

Marlowe wrote in renaissance England,

Then got killed (by the secret service,

so some recent historians think).

Dryden got beaten in Covent Garden,

Central London, by some thugs

Hired by The Duchess of Portsmouth or

Lord Rochester (a speculation)

During the English reformation.

A second visit to Romania in early April 2018, will promote and publicise this online book.

The second publication, in English and Romanian, is an illustrated poem of 100 verses.


In this poem, the narrator is the artistic alter ego of a poet with writers’ block. In one night he finishes the poet’s project—a long verse for a conference. On one level the verse explores two English translations from Ovid’s Amores (by Christopher Marlowe and John Dryden), looking for clues to explain each poet’s dislocation (exile for Ovid, death for Marlowe, and ostracization for Dryden). On another level the verse is about crisis in poetry. The poet is unable to write his poem because of a romantic sensibility. The project he envisaged was about various voices (Ovid, Marlowe, Dryden), yet his practice centres on a single authentic, un-humorous voice—his own. In despair he dries up, and turns to drink. At this point his alter ego comes to the rescue—an artist willing to piece things together in order to complete the poem. And with this piecing together, this collaging, comes debate, between poets, between alter egos, between different aesthetic positions. The poem ends by considering not just dislocations facing Ovid, Marlowe and Dryden, but also dislocations in poetry itself.


În acest poem, naratorul este alter ego-ul artistic al unui poet aflat în pană de inspirație. Într-una din nopți, acesta finalizează proiectul poetului – un lung cuplet pentru o conferință. Pe de o parte, poezia examinează două traduceri în limba engleză (de Christopher Marlowe și John Dryden) ale Iubirilor lui Ovidiu, căutând explicații pentru experiența dislocării trăită de fiecare dintre poeți (exilul lui Ovidiu, moartea lui Marlowe și ostracizarea lui Dryden). Pe de altă parte, poezia tratează fenomenul crizei de inspirație din procesul creației lirice. Poetul nu-și poate scrie poezia din cauza unei sensibilități romantice. Deşi în proiectul pe care-l imaginase era vorba despre diverse voci (a lui Ovidiu, Marlowe, Dryden), în realitate el se concentrează asupra uneia singure, autentică, dar lipsită de umor – propria sa voce. În disperare, însetat, se apucă de băut. În acest moment, intervine salvator alter ego-ul său – un artist care dorește să pună lucrurile cap la cap pentru a finaliza cupletul. Și odată cu această îmbinare, această potrivire a lucrurilor, vine şi dezbaterea între poeți, între alter ego-uri, între diverse poziții estetice. Poemul se termină luând în considerare nu doar deportările cu care se confruntă Ovidiu, Marlowe și Dryden, ci și dislocarea din poezia în sine.

This will be published by frACTalia press in 2020. However, in accordance with the terms of the grant, the translation by Taner Murat will be complete by March 2018, as will the illustrations (a selection of these are displayed at the bottom of this page). Editing, printing, promotion and publication will then begin.