Adriana Oniță is a Romanian-Canadian poet, artist, educator, and researcher. She is the Editorial Director of the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Founding Editor of The Polyglot, a multilingual magazine of poetry and art. She writes poezii în limba română, English, español, français, and italiano. Her recent poems appear in The Globe and Mail, The Humber Literary Review, in her chapbook Conjugated Light (Glass Buffalo, 2019), and in the Romanian Women Voices in North America series. Currently, Adriana is completing her PhD in Language Education at the University of Alberta and divides her time between amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton) and Italy.
Absolutely! As a teenager, I remember reading e.e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, and Christina Rossetti. I was obsessed with “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. In my Grade 9 L.A. class, I even wrote a "remix" or parody of this poem. I was lucky to have brilliant teachers in junior high and high school who made space for creative, fun, inspiring poetry projects like that. I even remember analyzing Eminem's “8 Mile” for an English class!
I started very young! Poetry is embedded in my mother language and culture (Romanian). I remember memorizing and reciting poems at home and school at five years old. I began writing poetry in grade three, and continued throughout my schooling, but it wasn't until I studied with Derek Walcott (Nobel laureate in literature) in university that I gained the courage to start imagining myself as a poet. I was around 20 years old when I began to take poetry seriously, and incorporated it into my research, my teaching, and my community work. It was also in my twenties that I realized I can mix and play with the languages I know. I read bilingual poets like Gloria Anzaldua, Oana Avasilichioaei, Maurice Kilwein Guevara, Tato Laviera. So I now write in Romanian, English, Spanish, Italian, and French — sometimes within the same poem!
I once asked a 10-year old the same thing and she said: “to inspire an absolute sense of freedom.” But I won't steal her answer (lol).
I would say a poet's job should involve a mixture of both individual and community work. Yes, we should work at our writing, experiment with language, and perfect our craft. But we must also remember that poetry, historically, has been a social and political activity. We must make space for others to thrive and to have their voices heard. This is why I consider myself a poet, but I'm also a community arts-organizer with the Edmonton Poetry Festival and The Polyglot magazine.