Andrei Codrescu


I was born in Sibiu, Transylvania, Romania, where in the 16th century they burned witches, in 1989 they shot students, and now citizens don’t flinch when Europe’s second biggest theatre festival sets off fireworks at midnight. I emigrated to Detroit in 1966 where a revolution was in progress. Tanks of the 82nd airborne and National Guard shot at me for sticking my head out the window after the 6pm curfew. To avoid gunfire and meet poets, I moved to New York City in 1966. I didn’t speak English, which made it easy to communicate with natives using sign language. My first poetry book, License to Carry a Gun, won the 1970 Big Table Poetry award, to the chagrin of my contemporaries who were great but, unfortunately, fluent. In 1983, I founded Exquisite Corpse: a Journal of Books & Ideas, taught literature and poetry at Johns Hopkins University, the University of Baltimore, and Louisiana State University (as MacCurdy Distinguished Professor of English). I read fiendishly and used my vulgate and indo-european substratum to keep language from wasting away in the swamp of politico-psycho-bureaucratic trash. Since 1983, I’ve been a regular commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered, because you can’t live on fighting kitsch every minute. I received a Peabody Award for writing and staring in the film Road Scholar, which started out cute but ended up making people cry. In 1989, I returned to my native Romania to cover the fall of the Ceausescu regime for NPR and ABC News, and wrote The Hole in the Flag: an Exile’s Story of Return and Revolution. After this return, I reconnected with Romania’s majestic poetry, and started to write again in my third language (German and Hungarian, respectively the first and second).

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