Adam J. Sorkin, distinguished professor of English at Penn State Brandywine, recently published a new book of translated poetry by one of Romania's most prominent younger poets.
Sorkin, of Havertown, collaborated primarily with the author, Ruxandra Cesereanu, to translate the poems found in Crusader-Woman, published by Black Widow Press, Boston. Cesereanu is the author of nine books of poetry, five books of fiction, and significant essays on the Romanian political prisons and political torture in the twentieth century. She has firmly established herself as one of the most important and exciting Romanian writers of today.
American poet Alice Notley said, "Ruxandra Cesereanu's Crusader-Woman is a masterful, raucous, mystical, anguished story poem, arising from the old Romanian churches of Cluj, with all their stones and thorns and blood. Thence transpires a female-ish, medieval-ish Crusade. The translation is excellent, and the poetry true."
Sorkin spoke of the challenge of translating poetry as finding the right words to keep the meaning, metaphor, emotion, and devices of sound and to convey "the inner poetry."
"I like the challenge of creating a parallel poem, a translated poem based on a theme in another language," he said. "It's like a jazz improvisation."
Of becoming a world-renowned Romanian translator, Sorkin said it all began "accidentally" in the 1980s when a friend at University of Bucharest asked him for help while he was there serving as the American Fulbright Lecturer. More than 25 years later, he knows a great many Romanian writers who often seek him out for help translating their work.
Sorkin is this country's most active and honored translator of contemporary Romanian writing. Recently World Literature Today termed Sorkin's work "prodigious." Among the awards and grants he has won for his work are Fulbright and International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) fellowships as well as recognitions from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the Arts Council of England, the Academy of American Poets, the Soros Foundation, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and The Poetry Society (U.K.), which gave his translation of Marin Sorescu's The Bridge the Prize for European Translation in 2005.
Sorkin has taught American literature, creative writing, poetry, and composition, as well as basic writing skills to Penn State Brandywine students, from entering freshman to seniors, since 1978. He is the program head for the campus' English major.
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