Book Balm recommendation: Read to have your empathy heightened and awareness deepened.
In her debut poetry pamphlet The Country With No Playgrounds, award-winning British-Romanian poet Elena Croitoru has captured a place and period in time so precisely and skilfully that you’ll find yourself transported.
Stark scenes are highlighted with words that seem fondly chosen for their beauty: “We grew up in our spare time,/ beyond a tower block island/ where pearly cement dust lay…”
Relayed with disarming matter-of-factness, many of the poems are almost cinematic, such as in The Last Wedding: “She looked out of the window/ at the militiamen who watched our balcony/ from below, the way one would watch/ the funeral of someone still moving.”
It’s heart-stoppingly alarming, yet clearly for the inhabitants utterly normal, to live with such a palpable threat. As worrying as the situation must have been for the adults she mentions, for the children Croitoru counted herself among, this was nothing more than ordinary. This gives her the tools to describe moments with a lightness of touch that draws us in rather than pushing us away, so that we read each stanza with wide open eyes.