Steve Whitaker, Literary Editor

Poem Of The Week : do you remember vienna by Nora Iuga

do you remember vienna

a city where you can fall in love
a city with a thousand churches
and a thousand brothels
where among pieces of the host
scattered on the cobblestones
the hooves of horses from the spanish school
are women’s high heels

The collection from which Romanian writer and poet Nora Iuga’s poem is taken is a sensual excursion through the central European hinterland of her memory. Sexually charged and as viscerally alert to the blandishments of impulse as the temporally remote figure upon whose past the poems reflect, Iuga’s narrator foregrounds that past as if it remained close to hand.

Uncapitalised and unpunctuated, ‘do you remember vienna’ lends itself to the footloose rendering of a recalled journey across a cityscape whose inconsistencies are reinforced with sibilant irony: the coexistence of brothels and churches, of the formal proprieties of pomp and of lascivious suggestion, are inferences of cultural contrast.

As cheerfully accepting of the varieties of human urges as she is, in the same breath, of human frailty, the narrator does not cast judgment; indeed, she was, and is, a complicit player in the drama of experience. Iuga’s poem embodies a wide-angled microcosm, and is a celebration of juxtapositions, of lives as divergent as they are sometimes contiguous.

‘do you remember vienna’ is taken from Dangerous Caprices, translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Diana Manole, and is published by Naked Eye (2020).
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