Daniel Ionita portrait by Etienne Reynaud
|Born||January 16, 1960|
|Occupation||Writer - poetry, translation|
|Testament - Anthology of Modern Romanian Verse; Testament - Anthology of Romanian Verse - American Edition; Hanging Between the Stars; ContraDiction; The Bessarabia of My Soul; Insula Cuvintelor de Acasa|
Daniel Ionita (born 16 January 1960, Bucharest, Romania) is an Australian poet and translator of Romanian origin, who has been published bilingually in both Australia and Romania. Ionita is known for his writing, especially poetry and poetry in translation, as well as for his cultural activity leading the Australian-Romanian Academy for Culture.
Daniel Ionita was born in Bucharest, Romania on January 16, 1960. Ionita's family left Romania in 1980, initially for Austria, before settling in New Zealand (from 1981 to 1988) and finally in Australia in 1989. He obtained a Bachelor's Degree with Honours in Psychology from Griffith University in Brisbane, graduating in 1997, and became a lecturer in Organisational Improvement as part of the Business Practice Unit of the University of Technology Sydney in 2005.
Initially, and somewhat controversially, Ionita became known for his bilingual (English/Romanian) anthology of Romanian poetry titled Testament – Anthology of Modern Romanian Verse, published by Minerva Publishing House. The first edition (Bucharest 2012) covered 50 poets; the second edition (2015) expanded the scope of the anthology to 93 poets. These volumes span 160 years of Romanian poetry (from about 1850 to the present), translated to English with the assistance of English linguists and literature specialists Eva Foster, Daniel Reynaud, and Rochelle Bews. The anthology includes the best-known Romanian poets, as well as some emergent and less-recognised poets.
An even larger edition, covering 120 poets, of Testament – Anthology of Romanian Verse (having dropped the word “modern” from the title), presented only in English, was released in the United States in March 2017, with the support of the Australian Romanian Academy of Culture and the Romanian Cultural Institute, which organized its New York book launch.
Together with Maria Tonu (Toronto, Canada), and with the support of Eva Foster, Daniel Reynaud, and Rochelle Bews, Ionita also edited and translated the volume The Bessarabia of My Soul, which is a collection of poetry from the Republic of Moldova (MediaTon, 2018). Like Testament, this is a bilingual edition in English and Romanian, and represents some 40 Bessarabian poets starting with Alecu Russo and Alexei Mateevici, and including contemporaries like Grigore Vieru, Leonida Lari, Leo Butnaru and others. Also notable is the presence in this volume of poems by Mihai Eminescu, who is claimed as the national poet by both Romania and the Republic of Moldova. Both the volume and the event have been chronicled at length by Ion Cuzuioc in publications in the Republic of Moldova and Romania. Literary critic and historian Alex Ștefănescu wrote a review published in Literary Confluences describing the endeavour as a union between competence and good taste (no.2784 from 15 Aust 2018).
Ionita has also been published as a poet in his own right, publishing two bilingual volumes in English and Romanian, Hanging Between the Stars (Minerva Publishing House, 2013) and ContraDiction (Pim Publishing, 2016), as well as a Romanian-only volume Insula Cuvintelor de Acasă – The Island of Words from Home (Limes Publishing, 2017).
His poetry has been generally well-received by literary critics: Constantin Cubleșan wrote that it is “difficult to pigeonhole… conversant across a number of styles… a confronting lyrical tone… a poet with no hang-ups, unlike many other contemporary ones”; Ștefan Ion Ghilimescuᴮ described it as having “a trenchant manner, very direct linguistic approach and high expressivity”; and Lucian Vasilescu observed that, “although he left Romania a long time ago, Daniel Ionita [poetically] inhabits the Romanian language”. Reviewers have positively compared various parts of his work with both earlier poets like Tudor Arghezi or Geo Dumitrescu, as well as more recent poets such as Marin Sorescu. They have also commented on the deep irony and especially self-irony of some of the poems. Ghilimescu, particularly, considers this ironic tone as being somewhat defining of the poet. Cubleșan objects to some of Daniel Ionita's more bawdy poems, but notes them as counterbalanced by the spiritually inspired ones. The spiritual poems were also regarded favourably by Ghilimescu, who suggested possible resonances from Nietzsche and Dostoevsky. Meanwhile, Alex Ștefănescu notes in his Postscript to the volume Hanging Between the Stars: “…and now Daniel Ionita publishes his own volume of verse, possessed by a pleasure of writing which is a rare commodity to the blasé writers of today. In fact, this Romanian from Australia rediscovers poetry, employing picturesque words like Nichita Stanescu, or transforming metaphor as a means of discovering the world, like Blaga. He does all this without imitating anyone, rather reinventing lyrical performance – with exuberance and freshness”. In 2016 and in 2018, Ionita's poems were included into a biennial anthology series of contemporary Australian poetry, All These Presences and On first looking, published by Puncher & Wattmann from Sydney, Australia. This series, initiated by Dr. Carolyn Rickett of Avondale College of Tertiary Studies in New South Wales, Australia, blends the work of established poets (e.g. Jean Kent, Judith Beveridge, Martin Langford, David Musgrave, Judy Johnson, Christopher (Kit) Kelen, Linda Ireland, Stephen Edgar) with emergent talent.
Criticism of Testament – Anthology of Romanian Verse
Testament - Anthology of Modern Romanian Verse (the title was changed to the more general Testament - Anthology of Romanian Verse by the time it reached the more recent American Edition) generated polarised reactions.
The controversy arose mostly from the perspective of literary politics, regarding the choice of poets and poems and therefore how representative the anthology was of Romanian poetry. A fair number of critics were very positive, including Alex Ștefănescu (“Testament – Anthology of Modern Romanian Verse represents the pantheon of Romanian poetry”... “no important Romanian poet is missing” and “I keep Daniel Ionita’s anthology on my desk [as reference]”), Lucian Vasilescu (“The work of the author of Testament is a rare one, if not unique even, thrilling and worthy of reverence”), Radu Voinescu (“one cannot contest the coherence of this volume”; “after the success of the first edition [Daniel Ionita’s] anthology has all the hallmarks necessary to successfully represent Romanian culture to a level which we have all desired, for a very long time”); Florin Ionescu, referring to the second edition - “the current volume represents a true panorama of the poetic diversity of Romanian literature”ᴵ; finally Melania Cuc – “Through the clear and professional approach, with exceptional dexterity in the use and linkage of syntagma, the poet-translator Daniel Ionita manages to bring to the light of print, and take to the world, an book of true value for us as a nation”
The opposition to the anthology was equally vehement, and came from two sources. One was Corneliu Vadim Tudor, who wrote a blog article entitled “Ugly book! Smacks to whoever wrote you!”. Vadim Tudor, a Romanian poet and politician, objected to the omission of poets such as Andrei Mureșanu (author of the verses to the Romanian National Anthem), Nichifor Crainic, and others. The second one is a similarly scathing article by Razvan Voncu, who also objects to the inclusion of certain poets over others - (“A ridiculous anthology”). He objects to the absence of some poets such as Geo Dumitrescu, Dinu Flamand, and A.E.Baconski, as well as the presence of authors such as Nicolae Tzone or Adi Cusin. Voncu also criticises the chronological presentation of the poets in the volume. The quality of translation itself appears to be a secondary concern among these reviews, although Razvan Voncu asserts that “Daniel Ionita is not a translator, never mind being a poet”.
It is worth noting that, apart from Voncu's unsubstantiated claim, no Romanian literary critic/reviewer addressed in depth Testament's quality of the reinterpretation in English, or its approach to it. However one English speaking reviewer surmised that “…[Testament] transfers well a voice which is distinctly Romanian into English, making it possible for the Romanian accent to be heard in our [English] language… This volume represents a window into Romania’s soul.” In addition, two critics, Pavel Perfil and Alex Ștefănescu describe the book-launch of Testament in Australia - and single out specifically the recital by actor Tug Dumbly of a poem from it (Eminescu's “Gloss”) in the Parliament of New South Wales in Sydney on the occasion of Romania's national Day (1 December 2012) - as an exceptional opportunity to represent Romanian poetry at the antipodes. In his extensive critical review of Mihai Eminescu's work, Ștefănescu renders the whole of Eminescu's Gloss in the English version from Testament, as a demonstration to his readers that this technically difficult work can be successfully transferred into English.
Perhaps because of these differing views, Ionita has received a considerable amount of exposure in the media, with various television channels (TVR, SperantaTV, TVR International, TVR Transilvania, Cotidianul TV, Nașul-TV among others) and radio stations (Radio Romania Actualități, SmartFM in Romania, the ABC and SBS stations in Australia, ARCA TV from the US) broadcasting about his work, and interviewing on a regular basis when he visits Romania. This exposure increased especially after the formation, in 2014, of the Australian-Romanian Academy for Culture, a body promoting specific cultural cooperation projects involving artists, writers and academics from Australia and Romania. Ionita's work has also been translated into other media: singers-songwriters Catalin Condurache, Sandy Deac and Adrian Ivanițchi have written and performed songs on some of Daniel Ionita’s more romantic poems.
- 2012 - 2015 - Testament – Anthology of Modern Romanian Verse / Testament - Antologie de Poezie Română Modernă, bilingual version (English/Romanian) – Minerva Publishing, 2012, second edition 2015. Daniel Ionita (editor and principal translator) with Eva Foster, Daniel Reynaud and Rochelle Bews. ISBN 978-973-21-1006-5
- 2013 - Hanging Between the Stars / Agățat Între Stele - debut volume of his own poetry bilingual English/Romanian – Minerva Publishing - ISBN 978-973-21-1000-3
- 2016 - ContraDiction / ContraDicție – poetry - bilingual Romanian / English - PIM Publishing 2016 - Bibliotheca Universalis Collection - ISBN 978-606-13-3840-5
- 2017 - Testament – Anthology of Romanian Verse - American Edition - monolingual English version - Daniel Ionita (editor and principal translator) with Eva Foster, Daniel Reynaud and Rochelle Bews - Australian-Romanian Academy for Culture -2017. 120 poets, including some significant Romanian poets who settled in USA and Canada - ISBN 978-0-9953502-0-5
- 2017 - The Island of Words from Home (Insula Cuvintelor de Acasă), poetry volume in Romanian - Limes Publishing - ISBN 978-606-799-094-2
- 2018 –The Bessarabia of My Soul / Basarabia sufletului meu – a collection of poetry from the Republic of Moldova - bilingual English/Romanian – Daniel Ioniță and Maria Tonu (editors) - with Eva Foster, Daniel Reynaud and Rochelle Bews - MediaTon, Toronto, supported by the Australian-Romanian Academy for Culture - ISBN 978-1-7751837-9-2
Presence in anthologies
- 2013 – Insomnii Mătăsoase / Silky Insomnias, edited by Stefania Grigorascu-Zanfir (Ed.PASTEL, Brasov) - ISBN 978-606-658-080-9
- 2014 – Lyrical Symbioses (Simbioze Lirice) – edited by Rodica Elena Lupu and George Roca (Anamarol, Bucharest) - ISBN 978-606-640-088-6
- 2015 – Testament – Anthology of Modern Romanian Verse (Minerva Publishing, Bucharest, second edition, bilingual English/Romanian) - ISBN 978-973-21-1006-5
- 2016 - All These Presences (Puncher & Wattmann, Sydney, Australia) - editors Jean Kent, David Musgrave and Carolyn Rickett - an anthology covering both recognised and emerging contemporary Australian Poets - ISBN 978-1-92218-692-8
- 2016 – Stellar Relief / Relief Stelar (Ed.Armonii Culturale, Bucharest) – a bilingual anthology of Romanian poets from the Romanian diaspora, edited by Maria Tonu.
- 2018 –The Bessarabia of My Soul / Basarabia sufletului meu – a collection of poetry from the Republic of Moldova - bilingual English/Romanian – Daniel Ionita and Maria Tonu (editors) - with Eva Foster, Daniel Reynaud and Rochelle Bews - (MediaTon, Toronto, supported by the Australian-Romanian Academy for Culture). ISBN 978-1-7751837-9-2
- 2018 - On first looking - Puncher & Wattmann Sydney, Australia) - editors Jean Kent, David Musgrave and Carolyn Rickett - an anthology covering both recognised and emerging contemporary Australian Poets -ISBN 978-1-92578-034-5
- Daniel, Ionita,; Eva, Foster,; Daniel, Reynaud,; Rochelle, Bews, (2015). "Testament: Anthology of Modern Romanian Verse". ResearchOnline@Avondale.
- "Lansarea Editiei a 2-a "Testament" – Antologie de Poezie Romana Moderna (versiune bilingva Romana/Engleza), de Daniel Ionita | Intercer". Intercer (in Romanian). Retrieved 2018-10-27.
- Istrate Gangan, Nuta (3 March 2017). """Testament" in America - next NEW YORK!"". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2018-10-27.
- Cuzuioc, Ion (2018-08-23). "Lansare de Carte / Basarabia sufletului meu | Uniunea Ziariștilor Profesioniști din România". Uniunea Ziariștilor Profesioniști din România (in Romanian). Retrieved 2018-10-27.
- Cuzuioc, Ion (23 August 2018). "Vatra sufletului Meu". Literatura și Arta. 3804-3805-3806.
- Ștefănescu, Alex (15 August 2018). "ALEX ȘTEFĂNESCU - O UNIUNE A COMPETENȚEI, BUNULUI-GUST ȘI ENTUZIASMULUI ÎN SLUJBA POEZIEI DIN BASARABIA de ALEX ŞTEFĂNESCU în ediţia nr. 2784 din 15 august 2018". Confluente Literare. Retrieved 2018-10-28.
- Daniel, Ionita,; Eva, Foster,; Daniel, Reynaud, (2013). "Hanging Between The Stars". ResearchOnline@Avondale.
- Cublesan, Constantin (November 2017). "Poet in Australia". Vatra Veche: 36.
- Ghilimescu, Stefan Ion (September 2017). "Cronica Literară - Un poet român la antipozi" (PDF). ARGEȘ: 18.
- Vasilescu, Lucian (October 2013). "Insula Cuvintelor de Acasă". România Literara.
- Ștefănescu, Alex (2013). Hanging Between the Stars - Postface. Bucharest: Minerva. pp. Back Cover. ISBN 978-973-21-1000-3.
- Kent, Jean; Musgrave, David; Rickett, Carolyn (2016). All These Presences. Australia: Puncher & Wattmann. pp. 79–80. ISBN 9781922186928.
- Kent, Jean; Musgrave, David; Rickett, Carolyn (2018). On first looking. Sydney, Australia: Puncher & Wattmann. ISBN 978-1-92578-034-5.
- Ionita, Daniel (2 November 2016). "DANIEL IONITA - TESTAMENT – ANTHOLOGY OF ROMANIAN VERSE (AMERICAN EDITION, 2016) - DANIEL IONIŢĂ - ed.2133 - 02/11/2016". Confluente Literare. Retrieved 2018-10-28.
- Ștefănescu, Alex (December 2012). "Farmecul antologiilor de altădată - Fundația România Literară". www.romlit.ro. Retrieved 2018-10-28.
- "Istoriile lui Alex Ştefănescu: Eminescu ovaţionat în Parlamentul Australiei". adevarul.ro. 6 February 2015. Retrieved 2018-10-28.
- Voinescu, Radu (November 2015). "Farmecul Eclatant al Antologiilor". Luceafărul de Dimineață: 4.
- Ionescu, Florin (2 February 2015). "Poezie românească peste timp și peste lume". Tribuna Învățământului. 1279.
- Cuc, Melania (6 August 2015). "Testamentul lui Daniel Ionita". Confluențe Literare. 1679.
- Tudor, Dr Corneliu Vadim (18 January 2013). "Dr. Corneliu Vadim Tudor: Carte urîtă, palme cui te-a scris!". Dr. Corneliu Vadim Tudor. Retrieved 2018-10-28.
- Voncu, Răzvan (May 2016). "O antologie ridicolă - Fundația România Literară". www.romlit.ro. Retrieved 2018-10-28.
- Reynaud, Daniel (October 2015). "Invadândui pe invadatori". Luceafărul de Dimineață. 1164: 16.
- Perfil, Pavel (1 January 2013). "La Sydney, recital din Glossa eminesciană". Tribuna Învățământului. 1179: 9.
- Stefănescu, Alex (2017). "Eminescu, poem cu poem. La o noua lectura - Alex Stefanescu - Alex Stefanescu, All - LibrariaOnline.ro". www.librariaonline.ro. pp. 400–405. Retrieved 2018-11-09.