By Daniel Deleanu
Dan Dănilă, the poet who sways between Leonberg and Sibiu with the rhythmicity of a couplet from a sonnet by Villon or Rilke, two of the poets he has so marvellously translated, is a constant presence on the poetic scene of both Germany, the country which adopted him in 1990, and Romania, the place where he was born. In between the two lands, he has managed to build for himself a solid reputation which few poets, both in Germany and Romania, can truly boast. And that’s not all, because Dănila is also an accomplished artist who paints, sculpts and takes artistic photographs. The gods have undoubtedly blessed Dănila, who is a true Renaissance man!
Dănilă’s latest book, Jurnalul lui Ulise (Ulysses’ Diary, Sibiu: Armanis Press, 2019), is his first writing in which poetry seamlessly mingles with prose, and the result is marvellous: an androgynous text wrapped in the prose of a poetic pseudo-diary written in the rhythm of an ancient Greek litany, whose mesmerizing melancholy reminds the reader both of Baudelaire’s prose poems and Petru Creţia’s extraordinary volume titled Norii (The Clouds), another epicene text that lies on the borderline between prose poetry and diary. The would-be journal entries with which Dănilă enchants us in his new book spin in the reader’s imagination, calling into mind the Homeric mytheme, even though he knows that this mythos is just the pretext for the poetic adventure on which he has embarked. The reader subsequently allows the poet to seduce him with his honest desire to take him to a realm where a mythopoetic illo tempore reigns: “On my island, where the whispers are sweetened with the milk of a strangled bird, some regarded with disdain how the layers of gold that cover the statues also enveloped around a pointer finger which hangs in the air without being attached to any hand, it’s as if a new shadow were descending upon the abstract portrait of an unknown martyr” (One).
Dănilă’s book is a phantasmatic prose poem loosely structured around Homer’s most egregious themes, from that of the journey of life on the way to one’s ineluctable demise, to the unrequited love that leaves a metaphysical vacuum in one’s heart and soul. The fake narratives that lie at the basis of these incongruous, as far as form is concerned, poems become unmoored right from the start, floating in time towards a topos-atopos that causes memories to gravitate around a wholehearted reunion with Eros and Thanatos, the two indiscernible characters of Dănilă’s book: “The same dust always cools our soles, but did Eden hide or are we in fact the ones who are hiding? It is the time when the glow-worms have already vanished, and the wonderful stars come out like a luminescent flood. I fell out of the story at the same time with them, and I was nothing more than flaming blood flowing between lofty words and flesh in love” (Six). The fantasy of returning to an Ithaca that lies in a realm characterized, as Mircea Eliade would put it, by a nostalgia for one’s origins, already contains the seed that led to one’s departure on this existential journey, whose teleological objective is to transcend the chthonic qualia of one’s birth. This soteriological excursion towards one’s final liberation from the shackles of material existence instigates the poet’s desire to identify himself as a free man, as only a man in love can be, despite the various ontological adversities encountered on the arduous way he has taken: “All roads take me to you now, quietness is like a strangled trumpet, like a gun fired mutely. […] Wayfaring clouds, where are you heading to in such a great hurry, now when the moon is about to escape from its prison-house? Bitter liquors do not heal anything, the Calvary overlaps the horizon line, light sheds off its skin layer after layer. I walk with my guilt bound in chains…” (Eleven).
Dănilă maintains coherence through the distinctiveness of his poetic voice and embroils the reader in the confessional net of an ever-increasing emotional intimacy. The poet metamorphoses from an absent, but rather commanding figure, as he appears at the onset of the textual adventure encapsulated in this book, to a protagonist who reassures the reader that the entire story depicted in this fake diary has been a noble lie, as only poetry can be. The book’s poetic anti-realism, which culminates with a rhetorical melancholy, and the poet’s refusal to commit to the factual respond to the intricate demands of its central acumen, namely that love, which, like life itself and all its libidinal urges, has more in common with Ulysses’ peripatetic itineraries and their existential mirroring than we may like to admit: “I sometimes allow myself to be distracted by faraway sceneries, by some exaggerations of what I have already seen. It is like one of those instances when you pay a visit to the museum, which you know so well, from your provincial town with nice people and autumnal sidewalks that are always carpeted by yellowed leaves: everything is passé, it’s as if I were living in a perpetual déjà vu. […] When I was a child, I loved you and no one else, I used to send you paper boats, hot letters in wet envelopes. Questions. Melancholy?” (Twenty).
Dan Dănilă, a writer in thorough control of his auctorial voice, is acutely aware of the possibilities of both poetry and prose. Thereby, the readers of these superb prose poems can only celebrate their elegiac tone, stylistic freshness and aesthetic ingenuity. As for the attention their author has hitherto received from the critics, one must admit that it is entirely well-deserved.
About the author:
Daniel Deleanu is a Romanian-Canadian writer and academic who sways between Toronto and his native town of Sibiu.
He has published articles, reviews and critical studies in cultural journals and academic journals from Romania and abroad (USA, Canada and Great Britain).
He has also published more than 1,300 academic books (critical studies of universal and comparative literature, studies of philosophy of literature, theory of literature, etc.) in English language, most of them in Canada.