The Guardian’s “Top 50 greatest love poems” includes two Romanian works

(foto: Nina Cassian and Doina Ioanid)

The Guardian compiled a list of the greatest love poems written over the last 50 years, gathering works of literary art from all over the world.

Chosen by poetry specialists at the Southbank Centre, the team that handled the selections looked at work written by poets from 30 countries, from Saint Lucia to Iraqi Kurdistan, but some well-known British names also make the cut.

Romania is represented in the ranking by two women writers: Nina Cassian for “Lady of Miracles” and Doina Ioanid for “Yellow Dog”.

“It was tough restricting ourselves to just 50 poems, but I think we’ve come up with a wonderfully rich and varied offering of some of the world’s greatest love poems,” said James Runcie, part of the team of selectors.

The poems will be read on 20 July at what the Southbank Centre is calling an “unprecedented event”, which will see 50 readers, from actors to poets, taking on one poem each from the list.

Nina Cassian (born 27 November 1924 in Galati) was a Romanian poet, translator, journalist and film critic. Outside of being a renowned poet who published more than fifty books, she also rendered into Romanian the works of William Shakespeare, Bertolt Brecht, Christian Morgenstern, Yiannis Ritsos, and Paul Celan.

Nina Cassian passed away earlier this year.

Lady of Miracles (Translation by Laura Schiff)

Since you walked out on me
I’m getting lovelier by the hour.
I glow like a corpse in the dark.
No one sees how round and sharp
my eyes have grown
how my carcass looks like a glass urn,
how I hold up things in the rags of my hands,
the way I can stand though crippled by lust.
No, there’s just your cruelty circling
my head like a bright rotting halo.

Born 24 December 1968, in Bucharest, Doina Ioanid has published five volumes of verse to date, consisting without exception of prose poems ranging from one to twenty-five lines. In an interview she described poetry as “a late-blooming love. As a child I was terribly fond of fairy tales, stories, adventure novels. I liked Chinese tales most, presumably because of the fascinating mixture of the quotidian and the fabulous.”

Yellow Dog (from Chants for Taming the Hedgehog Sow)

Heart in hand I’ve been walking all over the city, treading the first snow of the year under
my feet. And my heart, sprinkled with wine and with vinegar, went on rotting away to the
beat of my years – all thirty and seven of them – while the magpies assembled on the
drummer-boy’s shoulder. Bones alone couldn’t save me. Nor could your name, Argentina,
you, Land of Promise. Only a big yellow dog took pity on me – humbly walked up to me and
ate up my heart, taking his time. Then he left, moving away towards the horizon like an
enormous sun flower.


The list of the 50 greatest love poems of the last 50 years in full:
Michael Donaghy (USA) – The Present
Naomi Shibab Nye (Palestine) – Shoulders
Philippe Jaccottet (France) – Distances
Tadeusz Rozewicz (Poland) A Sketch for a Modern Love Poem
Billy Collins (USA) Night Club
Nazim Hikmett (Turkey) Things I didn’t know I loved
Margaret Atwood (Canada) Variations on the Word Love
Mutsuo Takahashi (Japan) Dove
Anna Swir (Poland) Thank-you, My Fate
Lawrence Bradby (England) – If Your Faith in Me Should Fail
Mary Oliver (USA) – Wild Geese
Anat Zecharaya (Israel) –A Woman of Valour (Trans Hebrew)
Karlis Verdins (Latvia) – Come to Me (Trans Latvian)
Doina Ioanid (Romania)The Yellow Dog (Trans Romanian)
Ana Ristovic (Serbia)– Circling Zero – (Trans Serbian)
Katharine Kilalea (South Africa)You were a bird
Ted Hughes (England) Lovesong
Kim Addonizio (USA) – You Don’t Know What Love Is
Kim Hyesoon (Korea) – A Hole (Trans from Korean)
Choman Hardi (Iraqi Kurdistan) Summer Roof
Carolyn Kizer (USA) Bitch
Nina Cassian (Romania) Lady of Miracles
Ashjan Al Hendi (Saudi Arabia) In search of the Other
Don Paterson (Scotland) My Love
Edwin Morgan (Scotland) – Strawberries
Chinua Achebe (Nigeria) Love Song (for Anna)
Muriel Rukeyser (USA) Looking at Each Other
Linton Kwesi Johnson (England/Jamaica) Hurricane Blues
Tracy K Smith (USA) Duende
Warsan Shire (England/Somalia) for women who are difficult to love
Frank O’Hara (USA) – Having a Coke With You
Adrian Mitchell (England) Celia Celia
Jackie Kay (Scotland) – Her
Maya Angelou (USA) – Come. And Be My Baby
Kutti Revathi – (India) Breasts
Sujata Bhatt (India) – Love in a Bathtub
Annabelle Despard (Norway) Should You Die First
Alice Oswald (England) – Wedding
Valzhyna Mort (Belarus) Love
Nikola Madzirov (Macedonia) – When Someone Goes Away Everything That’s Been Done Comes Back
Iman Mersal (Egypt) – Love
Sinead Morrissey (Ireland) Forgive Us Our Trespasses
Kei Miller (Jamaica) Epilogue
Faiz Ahmed Faiz (Pakistan) Before You Came
WS Merwin (USA) In Time
Arundathi Subramaniam (India) Prayer
Yves Bonnefoy (France) A stone
Ko Un (South Korea) Snowfall
Amjad Nasser (Jordan) A Song and Three Questions
Vikram Seth (India) All You who Sleep Tonight



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