The Flavor of the Other by Clara Burghelea


The title of the collection is expressive of my preoccupation with the flavor of the other: the other home, the other self, the other geography, the other as a human being. One way of looking at our identity is from the perspective of belonging: to a place, a landscape, a culture, a language, another human being. How do we make sense of ourselves when suddenly deprived of access to these familiar spaces? How do we restore the bruised, lost self? Poetry is one of the answers. These poems pivot back and forth between the communist Romania of the 1980s and present-day New York, looking closely at love, loss, nostalgia, home, and the in-between spaces that we inhabit and allow to inhabit us.


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 78
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: March, 2020
  • ISBN: 978-1-948017-64-0


In Clara Burghelea’s powerful first collection, memory is a thing that blisters under the weight of language and history. Each poem functions as a “sigh to slow the heart,” as they vacillate between two worlds: the communist Romania of the poet’s childhood and present-day New York. Every image and sensation precisely measures a distinct self; one that is prismatic, refracting stories and experiences that are inherited and, thus, inhabited. And if the self is a prism, these poems prove that grief is the light that bounces off every surface, transforming and illuminating a present life. “Words do not heal,/ They plaster the holes and clear space/ on the page,” writes Burghelea. But this book proves that language can do the hard work of repair, building new spaces one can live in, love in, survive in. —Kimberly Grey

Formally dexterous and daring in its metaphors, Clara Burghelea’s new poetry collection explores questions of gender, alterity, and social justice.  Yet unlike so much of contemporary poetry that takes culture as its subject, Burghelea’s work retains a sense of mystery. It is her skillful restraint, that rare belief in the power of what’s left unsaid in a poem, that sets her work apart.  Here is an exciting and necessary voice in contemporary poetry. —Kristina Marie Darling


Process of Detachment

I expect my son will let go of me when he’s five.
I will go back to just being Clara.
So ready to unspool from the erupting teeth,
the needy eyes, the extra hugs, the sticky fingers
and slip back into my old unprompted self.
The one who walked hard and spoke loudly,
flirted, craving to feel armies of ionized butterflies
prickle her backbone and warm her cheeks.
Of course, my body will stay proof of my shortcomings,
the twitching finger of the world pointing
at the curves, folds, scars. Little aware of the invisible.
The dreams of the young woman sipping
her latte at the corner of Franklyn and 7th Street,
a book of Dorianne Laux poems in her hand,
the nimble autumn breeze brushing her naked ankles.
The sleep-deprived, heavy breathing, nursing mom
who could not take her eyes off of the translucent skin
of the stubborn eyelids that took two weeks to open.
In between, there is a poet who craves the particulars
of other people’s frailties so she could match her own,
nib and heart probing the wound that lurks behind ecstasy.


Clara BurgheleaClara Burghelea is a Romanian-born poet and translator. She received her MFA in Poetry from Adelphi University. Recipient of the Robert Muroff Poetry Award, her poems and translations appeared in Ambit, HeadStuff, Waxwing and elsewhere. She reads for various magazines and is the current Poetry Editor of The Blue Nib.

Additional information

Weight 5.6 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in