Sorescu regarded himself as primarily a literary critic rather than a poet, and the essays he published during his lifetime prove that he was indeed capable of outstanding critical and theoretical insights. Likewise, Sorescu’s work as a playwright is also highly rated. His final play, Cousin Shakespeare, depicts the famous dramatist rewriting his plays according to the advice he is given by a Dane named Sorescu, and among the other characters can be found Hamlet and a number of Shakespeare’s theatrical contemporaries.
Sorescu’s poetry is often shocking, highly suggestive, and his originality and inventiveness as a poet were popular with readers and critics alike. In a highly memorable and quotable poem such as “Shakespeare”, Sorescu makes poetry itself new again, restoring it to the great prestige it enjoyed between the wars. After the Second World War, literature in Romania had been strongly politicised and subject to ideological strictures, but in the 1960s it experienced a rebirth, thanks largely to Marin Sorescu. His poems teem with famous figures. He quotes, paraphrases, employs intertextuality, makes jokes, sometimes even philosophises, even when his tone is ludic and childlike. Even decades later, his early poetry preserves its lyrical freshness, despite having become part of the culture in the meantime, recited at every school end-of-year ceremony.
In the 1970s, Sorescu began to explore the realm of love poetry, and his work from this period is full of intimate scenes à deux, which he seems to discuss more than to experience directly.
The At Lilieci cycle (Lilieci is the name of the cemetery in Sorescu’s native village), comprising a number of collections published from 1973 onward, might be described as a poetic version of Ion Creangă’s Recollections of Childhood. The first volume, regarded as the best, is a playful depiction of the world of his native village from the viewpoint of a child. Sorescu’s language is far from that of Creangă, however, and might sooner be compared with the prose idiom of The Moromete Family, Marin Preda’s novel chronicling peasant life during the Great Depression and then post-war collectivisation under the communist regime. Sorescu’s cycle became overly drawn-out, however, and subsequent volumes are pale imitations of the first.