Poetry in Motion: The Panic Room

Rebecca Păpucaru’s poetry has been described as “Fran Lebowitz meets T.S. Eliot,” by poet Jacob Scheier, and “supreme” by George Elliott Clarke. Poet Branka Petrovic says of Păpucaru’s debut The Panic Room (Nightwood Editions): “This first collection sends shock waves on a scale all its own; it agitates the line as we know it. Păpucaru is in tune with the hallucinations of histories, the shaky pasts of Eastern European Jews. The guitar is electric, the strings are made of steel, and she absolutely rocks it.”


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The Panic Room refers to my imaginative safe space, but also the distance writing allows me to explore topics such as mortality, illness, and loss. The first section of my book, “Wait in the Car,” is largely about family and childhood, but also the world of work. The first poem, “My Anne,” draws on my experience working in customer relations for a children’s’ toy factory, possibly the most depressing workplace I have ever known. This poem is also a meditation on my pen name. Years ago, my aunt told me that before immigrating to Canada her father, my paternal grandfather, had changed their family name to Schwarz. I wanted to preserve Păpucaru, as I often wish to preserve so much. The name means “he who makes slippers,” and as a fan of shoes in general, this delights me.The next section, “Wish You Were Here,” is mostly about dating, sex, and furtive relationships. I met my partner at the age of forty-three, embarking on my first proper, long-term relationship. Stability and companionship, however, are absent from these poems, as they reflect my nomadic sexual and romantic life. On the topic of pitching tents (forgive me) “If I Had Your Cock” is my paean to horniness, written after beginning anti-depressants. I was afraid my libido and imagination would be blunted, but happily, this was not the case. Relatedly, “Group Therapy” and “Take It or Leave It”, also in this section, are my mad pride poems.The book concludes with “Retouched,” and a series of poems recounting life on the road with a French truck driver. I met Didier, as I call him, during my three years in France teaching English, on New Year’s Eve in Toledo, Spain. For two weeks, I travelled with him as he transported live fish from France to Greece. During that time, I was steeped, so to speak, in working-class masculinity, often the only woman in the garage. I wanted to record Didier and his world, not just the nuts and bolts of fish husbandry but our short-term intimacy set against this rough yet cosmopolitan world of highways, truck stops, and ferries. Rebecca Păpucaru reads “Posterity” Rebecca Păpucaru reads “If I Had Your Cock” Rebecca Păpucaru reads “Distance”* * *Rebecca Păpucaru’s work has appeared in journals such as ARC Poetry Magazine, The Literary Review of Canada, PRISM international, The Malahat Review, The New Quarterly, and Event. Her poems have been anthologized in I Found it at the Movies: An Anthology of Film Poems and The Best Canadian Poetry in English. The Panic Room, a finalist for the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry (Quebec Writers’ Federation) is her first book.* * *Thanks to Rebecca for sharing The Panic Room with us and for regaling us with readings. Thanks also to Nathaniel from Nightwood Editions making the connection. For more poetry in motion, click here.