After publishing her first collection of poems, On a 1:1 Scale (1948), which revealed her as a promising modernist writer with a surrealist bent, Nina Cassian immediately fell foul of the communist press, and of Traian Șelmaru, an official journalist of the ruling Romanian Workers Party, in particular.
Cowed by Șelmaru’s invective and by the somewhat less virulent criticisms of Ovidiu S. Crohmălniceanu, Cassian reinvented herself as a politically committed poet, not out of vocation or any hope of self-advancement, but out of necessity. Ironically, this change in direction lent genuine brilliance to her poetry in the period that followed. Some of her politically and stylistically doctrinaire poems from the same year as On a 1:1 Scale were later included in New Poetry from the Romanian People’s Republic (1952), a landmark anthology of communist verse.
It was not until 1960 that Nina Cassian’s poetry managed to free itself of Party dogma and set off in a new, often ludic and occasionally self-reflexive direction. In her collection Ambitus (1965), her poems constantly oscillated between playfulness and seriousness, while her the tongue should burst poems, included in Lotto-poems (1971), evince an avant-garde, Dadaist air.
Nina Cassian was a voluble poet, capable of taking any stylistic direction when the moment suited her. She was drawn to every possible genre and format. She wrote prose that was both critically and popular with readers.