Spotlight series #95 : Adriana Oniță

rob mclennan
2 min readMar 4, 2024

Curated by Canadian writer, editor and publisher rob mclennan, the “spotlight” series appears the first Monday of every month.


Have you ever considered the gravity of losing your mother tongue — the sacred first language you loved and were loved in? When I close my eyes, I wonder if I will ever speak Romanian again as fluently as I did when I was a child. I wonder if fiul meu, Rafael, will learn it as his mother tongue. The emotional and spiritual pull towards limba maternă led me to compose the poems in my new chapbook Misremembered Proverbs (above/ground press, 2023). In the chapbook, you can savour proverbs and pictures that act as curatives — for catastrophic times, for disillusionment, for doing and undoing, for gravity, for love, for synchrony, for responsibility to our own art practice, and more. I wanted to carry over precious pieces of wisdom for my son that I frequently heard (and often misheard) growing up from my mother, my aunts, and my grandmother. I still don’t know which proverbs are real and which ones I invented.



pentru Rafael

Câteodată vei fi apa,
câteodată pietrele

At times you flow,
at times you remain
rock on riverbed,
eroded, smooth, still


Cu un copac nu faci pădure,
dar cu doi copaci strâmbi faci o copilărie.

You can’t make a forest from a tree,
but with two crooked trees you can make a childhood.


Omul darnic, iubitor, de dușmani nu duce dor.
A generous, loving person never lacks enemies.

Fă-te frate cu dracul, sărută-i fruntea.
Make the devil your brother, kiss his forehead.

Împreună se răzbună.
Revenge is best done together.

Adriana Oniță [photo credit: Shawna Lemay] is a poet, educator, translator, researcher, editor, and publisher. She was awarded the Canadian Literature Centre Poetry Prize in 2019, and was shortlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2021. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks: Misremembered Proverbs (above/ground press, 2023) and Conjugated Light (Glass Buffalo, 2019). Her multilingual poems have been published in CBC Books, The Globe and Mail, Tint Journal, Glass Buffalo, filling Station, The Ex-Puritan, In:cite, The Polyglot, Imaginations, Transcultural, and The Humber Literary Review. She is the founding editor of The Polyglot, an award-winning multilingual magazine which has provided a platform for over 220 poets, translators, and artists who work in over 60 languages, and the editorial director of the Griffin Poetry Prize. She lives between Edmonton and Sicily. Discover more of her work at