The Lives of the Painters – By Constantin Severin

PC- Mihai Burlacu


The Lives of the Painters a special book of poetry which include 25 poems (at the border between ekphrastic writing, essay, poetry and confession) dedicated to famous painters of the XXth century. Last year the manuscript with the English version of the book won the prestigious International Poetry Award “Aco Karamanov” 2022 (in a competition with 179 poets worldwide) and it was translated into Macedonian language and published in Northern Macedonia.

Below are 3 poems from the book.



I was a woman-child with flowery veins in spaces beyond us
with trembling landscapes sucked in by the vast sound of the flute
and beings of etheric matter gushing from my melted flesh of longing
a hot plasma creature a translucent nebulous white oasis
from which the heart-shaped faces of owl-women and chrysalis-men were drunk
portable orchestras made from the bones of the long-lost
my life was a painful reminder of a short circuit between two worlds

I was a Catalan story about line and form a palimpsest out of print
written by Russian mystics by Bosch and De Chirico by Goya and Poe by Matta and Bach
a woman with bat wings expelled from the garden of earthly delights
a surreal and ectoplasmic appearance in the Colonia Roma in Mexico
looking for the fourth dimension in a deep and awakening state of sleep
trying to peel the chrysalis from the bodies of friends Kati and Leonora
and sit at the table with the vegetarian vampires and cats in my canvases

I was an agile salamander running away from a nunnery
born from the lost sketches of a Renaissance painter
from which I inherited the harmony the tonal nuances and narrative structures
I found in the deep waters the peace and magic of sacred geometry
the waves that make you vibrate and forget the collective loneliness above
a way to breathe in the whirlpool of danger and to communicate the incommunicable
to forget that man lives his life in his sleep and dies in his sleep (1)

I was a bloodstain in an old alchemical laboratory
an incandescent nest with white and red blood cells
raised by angel-chrysalis among retorts and crystal stills
an embossed drawing like a silk cocoon from which butterflies come out drunk with loneliness
I always painted with the feeling of an invisible architecture
I used the talisman-line to capture the movements of everything
and I nestled in the light my heart with huge eyes mutilated by history

I was looking through the almond-shaped eyes of the non-existent
nothing deeply immersed in nothing from which the world and art are born
the pollen grains of the mystery with tones from bright to dark
a honeycomb of shapes that pours its multicolored lava into soul-wells
a sound creature who dreams of incarnating in a Gothic cathedral
in the thin transparent hands of an icon painter
in my gaze resurrected by the dead of all times

(1) From the texts of the Russian mystic G. I. Gurdjieff, beloved by the artist.

Suceava, August 25, 2021



tired to despair of white walls white wine and white people
wrapped up to the neck in videotapes old dolls African musical instruments
I felt the catastrophes of modern life run down my spine
not to think about art at all while working just dream of the bitch of life
the street is more authentic and more alive than an art academy
I haven’t forgotten the stripes on the benches in Washington Square Park
printed in flesh in my adolescence and not the hard boots of cops

the women I loved told me I had a multichromatic sexuality
I remember all the nights I made love to Venus Madonna
in a bed with music notes pregnant with thousands of African skulls
do not delude yourself I have always been fascinated only by intelligence and pain
by prophets and athletes by warriors and musicians by kings and artists
I saw the world through the heads and multicolored skulls of heroes and saints
and I looked for King Zulu in the sounds of Charlie Parker and Jimi Hendrix

the boys in my painting do not become men quickly turn into skeletons and skulls
not bad at all to die young you leave behind a child’s heart and a beautiful corpse
living friends become more inspired when they compose noise rock
and constantly cover with SAMO graffiti the villas of billionaires on Wall Street
girlfriends walk casually in Cadillacs with new numbers
bought used by Hollywood Africans (1)
but at night the teeth of the missing occupy the intimate spaces between two caresses

I dial phone numbers at random every day to call the bird of paradise
I live in a tabloid world that meets on the corner with tragedy
presence is an absence a huge hole in the collective soul
gallery owners and art collectors are increasingly greedy and hysterical
I have no crown or hat and no halo on my head
words letters numbers icons diagrams symbols from maps
my world is becoming more and more indecipherable a skull comet

tired to despair of white walls white wine and white people
I offer you on the tray all my inner world born on the street
the ethereal imprints of Madison Square Garden and Manhattan
the suicide bomber’s phone and the collection of bras from dozens of white girlfriends
the unconscious smile of my mother in a psychiatric clinic
Andy Warhol’s gentle look after I put him on the canvas
nobody loves a genius child with a septum pierced by anxieties and cocaine

1)The title of a Basquiat’s work.

Suceava, September 21, 2021



my life was an attempt to forget through art my childhood shaken by tuberculosis
and the dance of St. Vitus with spontaneous movements and convulsions of the face and legs
the dance that turned my inner life into a mill of illusions
and made me discover islands of emotion in everyday objects that bore you
a box of Campbell’s soup a bottle of Coca-Cola a jar of ketchup a banknote
maybe the world is moving in an involuntary dance to Disasters and Death (1)
while friends pee on my expensive copper oxide canvases

I’d like to be a ring on Liz Taylor’s finger so I don’t feel pain anymore
the state of being only half present in my own panting life
filmed and photographed in detail moment by moment frame by frame
hidden in moments of loneliness in hundreds of time capsules
full of magazines and books taxi receipts bullets extracted from the chest
strands of beloved men multicolored pills empty bottles and cans
not to live with the feeling that I watch it more on TV than I live it

I was a deeply superficial person I did”nt read books just looking at pictures
the image was the altar on which I knelt as in front of my mother
instead of a cross I wore a Polaroid camera around my neck
my workshop and home were besieged by photographs and reproductions
I slept with the two dogs in a bed stuffed with Elvis and Marilyn
the mummified foot of ancient Egypt floated in a tide of newspaper images
I was just a lost image in the heart of things giving birth to images

I disguised myself as a banker or a clown with messy hair and a fixed gaze
lest you see my short line of life and the deep grooves of tears
the surgical corset worn after Valerie”s attack in the Factory
vampire teeth from the shrill sounds of everyday life
the color of despair in the mysterious corners of the ego
the masturbating loneliness on the burning arena of glory
the scale of virtues detonated by the art of making money

to make art means to die partially and to rise whole
to find the explosion of life in a grain of dust
the fires of joy in the heart of the things around us
the beauty gushing between dirty boots glass wool and rats
the image is a blossoming cherry branch stretched between the word and the abyss
art cannot exist without providential moments of communion
read this poem and we will give Severin 15 minutes of glory

(1) The title of a series of artworks by Andy Warhol

Suceava, October 3, 2021


A brief review by Toti O’Brien

Twenty-five monologues in the first person. Identities stay separate, their contour brightly and pristinely drawn. Yet the story, of course, is also one and the same, but not just because all the artists are Severin’s personas. No. The poetry dives so very deeply into each singularity, a polyphony is truly achieved. Still, the story is both multiple, and one. There is a point where identities, included Severin’s, dissolve, and the voice we hear is the voice of art itself – its metabolism, its alchemy, its engendering and regeneration. The life that is told is art’s life, of which each creator is a tool, brush, pigment – of which each of the artists here gathered is a gesture, a moment, day, hour – a brief if prodigious embodiment, single strand of the vast, magnificent tapestry.


About the Author / Poet

Constantin Severin is a Romanian writer and visual artist, founder and proponent of Archetypal Expressionism, a highly regarded global art movement, which he founded in Bukovina, in 2001. A graduate of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, he has published 15 books of poetry, essays and fiction. One of his poems was included in the 2014 World Literature Today anthology, After the Wall Fell: Dispatches from Central Europe (1989–2014), aimed at popularizing post-Wende Central European literature on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 2022 he won the International Poetry Award “Aco Karamanov” in Northern Macedonia, for the English version of the manuscript of the poetry book “The Lives of the Painters” and in 2023 he was awarded the Prize ”On the trails of Orpheus” at the International Poetry Festival in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. His books of poetry have been translated and published in UK, USA, France, Macedonia and India. Website: