Releasing the Porcelain Birds: Poems after Surveillance, Shearsman, UK, 2016.

The poem “Preparing for the Journey of Return” from this collection, appears in the Irish Times, here:

An interview on the BBC World News about the book:

An interview about working with the files on NPR:


“Carmen Bugan has the ability to transform deeply personal experiences into poetic language without losing the radiant particulars from which they sprang.” –Frank Beck, The Manhattan Review

Dundee University Review of the Arts reviews the book here:

“I can certainly attest […] now, after being in Bugan’s world of “frail syllables”, that such an equilibrium between history and art is not only possible, but is often the only way to assuage pain, to release the caged birds, to free oneself from the shackles of grief.” –Simon Gatev, Dundee University Review of the Arts

New Letters review here:

“The situation evoked in Releasing the Porcelain Birds, Carmen Bugan’s fourth volume of poems, is undeniably fascinating. Over twenty years after leaving Ceauşescu’s Romania, Bugan (who has subsequently lived in the United States, Britain, Ireland and mainland Europe, and published a childhood memoir, Burying the Typewriter, in 2013) uncovered thousands of pages of secret police surveillance files on her family: painstaking records of their movements, possessions, conversations. This collection puts the poet’s own words in dialogue with those documents, responding to and ultimately rewriting their claim to an objective perspective on her family’s history. It is a rumination on the creative aftermath of police state surveillance, and the importance of remembering differently.”–Alice Troy-Donovan, The Times Literary Supplement, February 15, 2017

“Her exploration of the rift between the surveillance history and the collective memories of a family is pursued with all the skills and moral courage of a remarkable poet writing a poetry that must be written.” —Kelvin Corcoran (from back cover)

“Releasing the Porcelain Birds is dedicated to the years that the author and her family suffered the harsh isolation and dangers under the ubiquitous eyes of informers and the secret police itself, and the magical literary consequence to such an ordeal, through the expressive and original lyricism of her poems. Loneliness, resilience, intensity, desperation, estrangement are to be found abundantly in the memory of that time but also through their artistic vibrancy, for which we should be grateful to this gifted and inspired writer.”–Norman Manea (from back cover)

“In Releasing the Porcelain Birds Carmen Bugan uses thousands of secret police files kept on her family when they lived under Romanian secret police surveillance. Poems are interspersed with excerpts from secret police files and the tension and pressure of living as an ‘Object of Observation’ (‘We are museums’) is explored in these sinister and exacting poems.”–Kim Moore in The Compass Magazine

‘In this collection of poems, Bugan reclaims the beauty of her life despite the humiliating experience of harsh isolation and constant surveillance of the Romanian secret police during Ceausescu’s reign of terror.’–Oweney Courtney in The Bishop’s Institute (Book of the Month review)