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Nina Cassian obituary

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Romanian poet exiled to New York who wrote about childhood, ageing, freedom and, above all, love

The poet Nina Cassian, who has died of a heart attack aged 89 in New York her home since she gave up Romania for her safety's sake in the mid-1980s produced more than 30 volumes of witty, vigorous verse, first in Romanian and, in her later years, in English. She was an entertaining reader of her own poems, delighting audiences with her humour and vitality. Her haunting poems addressed themes of childhood, ageing, exile, freedom of all kinds, creatures real and invented, and, above all, love. These last could be fantastic, or direct and forthright, and occasionally extreme; Fleur Adcock, who wrote the introduction to Call Yourself Alive?: The Love Poems of Nina Cassian (1988), remarked on the "startling physicality" of the writing. Cassian revelled in invented languages devising one of her own, "Spargan" and greatly enjoyed doing her party piece, her translation into Romanian of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky.

Cassian also wrote novels and books for children, worked as a film critic, and made translations into Romanian of classic poetry and drama, notably Shakespeare, Molière and Bertolt Brecht (a Romanian version of The Threepenny Opera). When the poetry slowed down, she turned to painting or composing music, having had lessons at Bucharest Conservatoire from Constantin Silvestri, among others.

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