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Ursu, Liliana 1949-

URSU, Liliana 1949-

PERSONAL: Born 1949, in Sibiu, Romania.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Northwestern University Press, 629 Noyes St., Evanston, IL 60208.

CAREER: Writer, translator, and educator. Creative-writing professor at University of Louisville, KY, and University of Bucharest, Romania; Pennsylvania State University, former educator. Stadler Center for Poetry, Bucknell University, poet-in-residence, 2003; Romania Culturala, Bucharest, radio producer.

AWARDS, HONORS: Two-time winner of Fulbright scholarship from Pennsylvania State University.



(Editor and translator) Fifteen Young Romanian Poets: An Anthology of Verse, Eminescu Publishers (Bucharest, Romania), 1982.

(Translator, with Adam J. Sorkin) Focuri pe apa: 7 poeti din Sibiu (title means "Fires on Water: Seven Poets from Sibiu"), Cartea Româneasca (Bucharest, Romania), 1992.


Viata deasupra orasului, Cartea Româneasca (Bucharest, Romania), 1977.

Ordinea clipelor, Cartea Româneasca (Bucharest, Romania), 1978.

Piata aurarilor, Cartea Româneasca (Bucharest, Romania), 1980.

La jumatatea drumului: proza scurta, Cartea Româneasca (Bucharest, Romania), 1986.

Corali, Editura Eminescu (Bucharest, Romania), 1987.

The Sky behind the Forest: Selected Poems, Bloodaxe Books (Newcastle on Tyne, England), 1997.

Angel Riding a Beast, Northwestern University Press (Evanston, IL), 1998.

Goldsmith Market, Zephyr Press (Chicago, IL), 2003.


SIDELIGHTS: Born in 1949, in Sibiu, Romania, poet and educator Liliana Ursu has taught at Pennsylvania State University, the University of Louisville in Kentucky, and the University of Bucharest, Romania. Early in her career, however, such a well-travelled career was not possible. The political situation in Romania was such that, for many years, Ursu was unable to leave the country even for brief periods of time. At the height of communist dictator Nicholas Ceausescu's regime, in fact, things were so difficult and censorship so rampant that Ursu, always a prolific writer, stopped writing entirely. As she told Berkleyan Online interviewer D. Lyn Hunter, "we (writers, publishers, and broadcasters) could not use words like 'church' and 'despair' because they appeared on a list of forbidden words issued by the government." The local police went so far as to register all writers' typewriters, keeping a sample of the characters on file to make it easier to identify the authors of revolutionary materials. Other hazards included the need to dodge bullets on her way to work at the public radio station of Romania, a situation that finally ended with the overthrow of the country's communist regime. Ursu told Hunter: "I'm so glad to have my freedom back, but I cry when I think of the years that were stolen from me during that terrible time."

Ursu has written numerous volumes of poetry in Romanian, several of which have appeared in English. Although Ursu herself is fairly fluent in the language, she works with a translator to make sure the nuances of the poetry are translated accurately. Poet Tess Gallagher, who has translated some of Ursu's poems, told Daniel Bourne in an interview for Artful Dodge Online that she was drawn to Ursu's work because "I love it that she has this wonderfully religious soul that speaks outright to God in the poems." She went on to remark that "she's worshipping and trusting and resting in the everlasting bosom of the Lord. That's so different to have on the scene, and with stature, not pandering or simpleminded, and it's a real challenge to present it because the main expression of American poetry is so secular."

The Sky behind the Forest: Selected Poems is a collection culled from Ursu's early volumes issued in Romania. Marguerite Dorian, writing in World Literature Today, remarked that "this is a poetry of many crystal-cut surfaces, a poetry in turn burdened by dark knowledge or brimming with exuberance, particularly when the poet is generously giving away her self in friendship, in real or imaginary exchanges with her friends." She went on to add that "When shared, confidences are complex, often obscured by esthetic detours and by the consolation of philosophy—perhaps a consequence of the author's being trained to write poetry under conditions of massive repression."

Reviewing another collection of Ursu's poems, Angel Riding a Beast, World Literature Today contributor Sharon M. Bailey observed that the poet "seeks to make concrete such abstract concepts as home, exile, love, hope, and death through observation of herself, those around her, and her environment. In this way, she bridges the gulf between the practical and the theoretical or between what is and what could be."



Publishers Weekly, May 26, 1997, review of The Sky behind the Forest: Selected Poems, p. 80.

Times Literary Supplement, August 8, 1997, George Szirtes, "Icons and Enigmas" review of The Sky behind the Forest, p. 29.

World Literature Today, spring, 1998, Marguerite Dorian, review of The Sky behind the Forest, p. 358; summer, 1999, Sharon M. Bailey, review of Angel Riding a Beast, p. 512.


Artful Dodge Online, (May 3, 2005), Daniel Bourne, "Liliana Ursu."

Berkleyan Online, (May 20, 2005), interview with Ursu.

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