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Disappearing Poets: Al Robot

My name is Jamie Lee Hamann and I started writing poetry on Hubpages back in 2013. Every year I share a poem a day in April.


I. On Disappearing

First find a list of missing people and then as you read keep tabs of the poets amongst them. Usually I find two poets out of every twenty missing people listed for the year searched.

Some poets literally vanished like Lew Welch, a San Fransisco poet, who seemed to fall off the earth in the 1970’s or Craig Arnold who, in 2001, flew to Japan and never returned.

Those are the only two poets found who disappeared in such a fashion. Quite a few European poets found themselves on the list simply due to fighting war mostly World War II.

In Romania we find a Robot, Al Robot, whose Apocalips terestru or “Terrestrial Apocalypse,” written when sixteen years old, placed him alongside the great surrealists of the 1930’s.

Al Robot was born Alter Rotman in Bucharest to Romanian Parents. Alter dropped out of High School to be a reporter for a local newspaper called the Rampa. It was during his time at the Rampa that he completed Apocalips terestru and began his search for a publisher.

He wrote articles supporting his leftist principles weekly and carried a very strong conviction on Labor Rights and Social Services.

A desire to move farther into the country and away from the city pushed him to the Bassarabia region of Greater Romania where he settled in Chisinau, the capital of the region.

The people of Chisinau Romania held onto deep right wing beliefs. Any leftist ideology was considered Bolshevik and could yield a hefty punishment.

Alter felt at home with the hard working people of Chisinau and out of respect kept his thoughts on politics to himself and only shared with his readers abroad.

He showed respect for the working class of Chisnau by completing a collection of journalistic attempts to cover the lives of Liporan Fisherman.

Al Robot stayed in Chisnau after the Russian Communist Party took over. His relationship with the locals became strained when he was forced to write Soviet Propaganda by the Party.

Shortly after the Communist Party took over Al Robot joined the Red Army to fight Nazis. He was twenty five or twenty six years old when he vanished into war somewhere around Odessa Ukraine of the SSR.


II. The Work of Al. Robot

His stay in Chisnau prior to the Soviet invasion motivated Al Robot to write another collection of poetry, a novel, and a few collected essays. His first collection of poetry Apocalips terestru published outside of Romania created a broader readership throughout Europe.

His second collection of poetry titled “The Slumber of Solitude” published abroad in 1936. His first novel, Musik-Hall, found a wide European audience. While working on his novel he published essays on Dadaism and Surrealism and found a voice amongst the surrealists of the 1930’s.

He published five collections of poetry before his disappearance:

  • Apocalips terestru
  • The Slumber of Solitude
  • The Tamer of Words
  • The Poets Departure and Rest
  • Moldova Has Blossomed

III. Surreal Poetry

“I believe in the future resolution of these two states, dream and reality, which are seemingly so contradictory, into a kind of absolute reality, a surreality, if one may so speak.”

Andre Breton Manifesto of Surrealism

Al Robot, and most of the surrealist of the time, attempted to catch the world of dreams. Many of his poems placed his dream world within mythology of ancient Greece and Rome.

From Madrigal

And the moon,

searching for your

foot in the grass,

presents for sipping

the bitter bottom of a cup.

To the ephebeab

gathers metaphors

and butterflies.

Al Robot

This excerpt from Madrigal pulls the reader into a moment when the moon moves with the narrator. A moon from dreams that can sense our footsteps and our sorrows. A moon from a night full of ”metaphors and butterflies.”

The pastoral in our dreams provides an endless fountain of metaphor. All dreams seem to contain a landscape and Al Robot provided detailed pastoral imagery behind all his dreams.

From Priveliste (A View)

Great crops

quiver with

their sin.

I know how it was that

earthworms gave them


Al Robot

Somewhere in Romania Alter Rotman found peace within small rural community and expressed his love through the imagery in his poems. He blended together the dream and reality with great skill and attention to detail.


From A Washoe Graveyard Under Topaz

Excerpt from my own poem A Washoe Graveyard Under Topaz. This poem resonated as I researched Al Robot and his poetry. This poem offers a mixture of surreal and pastoral imagery.


Every evening out at the reservoir
the Basque herd a mountainside of white sheet,
ancient Furies, and other gods your pyre
where sacrificial lamb and fire meet
hordes of sheep that fall to watery hell,
each drunken herder has a tale to tell.

Underneath this vastness, this movement white
lie delapidated trailers
within a loose forest of pine, tree site
over Topaz, a desert lake, a desert people
huddled together in makeshift community
Casino, fish, spiritual unity.

This was the ancient land of the Washoe
not reservation land but heritage
to me and my school compadres true,
would swing by the camping cove where we played
we would hike up the slippery stone cliffs
to drink stolen beer and smoke hand rolled spliffs.
It was not that we knew each other well,
this, this deep rooted history of the poor,
but when the wind picked up the waves did swell
and we would forget the beatings next door
to untie our hiking shoes, to place them
around our necks, swim before waves begin.
Sometimes you would see a trout on the swim
and you knew that you could not stop to speak
whether you stopped for a fish or a whim,
we knew these waves would pull us into lake.
yet instead of taking the hike around,
roll the dice, take the risk of being drowned.
As we lift ourselves from the deep water
with our shoes tied around our bare necks
ancient waves crash on the shore louder
than the marching of the sheep or the Basque
herder calling out to the restless herd
to trailers where the horrific occurred.


This is the end of the trout road and the trout
whose entrails pour out upon the cold ground
an oracle read by the circling lot
runes of the gods where answers are found
this fish whose flesh became one with the land
whose gills now pick up the gravelly sand.
The trees shared the secret with each whisper
communication with each winded breath
and paramedics lift the stretcher
weighted down by the shoes of youth and death.
Each step next to the oracle of the trout
no need for ambulance sirens to ring out.
Then dispersed the crowd of gathering legs,
slowly, silently they shuffle forward
down to where the waves slowed and the cliffs craigs
shadowed the rust and wear on a old Ford,
to sit queitly on their camping chairs,
ponder conclusions to living affairs.
Three circling buzzards with one eye
have read the rotting guts from the ground,
circle the heads of the men and they sigh.
The lake will take one of your own, its bound
by fate to thunder and humble man's pride,
when youth from the tribe have fallen and died.

Jamie Lee Hamann

© 2020 Jamie Lee Hamann

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