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Reviewed by Kenneth Salzmann for Readers' Favorite
In the 42 poems collected in The Night I Burned My Origami Skin, Romanian-born writer Catalina Florina Florescu ranges through a wide swath of human experience, delving into both the deeply personal and the broadly political. Likewise, there is a variety of poetic styles, some readily accessible and some that require patience and an openness to paradox. That’s not to say readers should be intimidated by her work, only that it sometimes calls on us to tease out meaning in the way the best poetry often does. In addition to writing poetry, Florescu is an academic with a doctoral degree in Comparative Literature and, significantly, is a multilingual writer just as quick to cross the borders to be found in and between language(s) as the geographic ones between her longtime home in the United States and her native land.
As a poet and an avid reader of poetry, I appreciate the depth and breadth of Florescu’s poetry, where meaning can sometimes be elusive. Notably, this happens in the (originally) 19-line poem “Editing” that is reduced through aggressive erasures to three lines “Poetry, domino-like fall./With love comes poetry./We are translucent emotions.” Similarly, in “I. You (Triangulate)” she gives us such lines as “This silence/That [ ]/I/break/is not enough/I am undoing my foot/steps” to unravel. For me, doing that is one of the challenges – and pleasures — of reading sophisticated poetry. But I also enjoy Florescu’s straightforward poems like “Sunday Sermon” (“I was enjoying my afternoon when this woman came up to me.”), and the poem “UŞoarĂ/Light,” written in both Romanian and English and concluding with the evocative lines: “If I want my English authentic and meaningful,/I must continue to be a foreigner.” It’s probably safe to say that The Night I Burned My Origami Skin won’t appeal to everyone, but readers who wish to immerse themselves in inventive language and provocative ideas should find this book as richly rewarding as I did.