Shortly after the events of December 1989, a new award was initiated in Botosani, which soon became a landmark of Romanian contemporary poetry: the “Mihai Eminescu” National Poetry Award. This award was the idea of poet Gellu Dorian, from Botosani.
Here is more from Gellu Dorian himself: “We came up with the idea of this prize right after the Revolution, in June 1990. We knew that in June 1989 Mihai Eminescu’s centenary was celebrated. Right after the Revolution, in an attempt to change the format of literary meetings which were way too formal and full of fake eulogy and untrue things about Eminescu’s life and work, we decided to initiate in Botosani, with the help of the municipality, the “Mihai Eminescu” National Poetry Award. It was only in March 1991 that the Local Council, following heated debates, established this award officially".
The “Mihai Eminescu” National Poetry Award, is not granted easily, that’s why it has acquired value in time. A proof thereof is the confession of this year’s winner, Ion Muresan from the city of Cluj-Napoca, who says that to him this award is, quote, “ an access card to the Romanian poetry’s elite club, given that the most important poets of the last 50 years have been granted this award.” Unquote.
Poet Gellu Dorian: “From the very beginning we wanted to grant this poetry award to a Romanian contemporary writer, for lifetime achievement. Hence the “Opera Omnia” title added to the award. In order to make this award legitimate, we established a national jury, made up of outstanding personalities of literary criticism and literature and professors from four Romanian university centers - Bucharest, Cluj, Iasi, Timisoara. Head of the Writers’ Union at that time, the late literary critic Laurentiu Ulici liked the idea and supported it. He set up a jury that, for ten years, has been legitimating this award, which has so far been granted to 10 poets. Value has always been the main selection criterion. We have a whole year to pick one poet from among tens of poets who have already published several volumes. Then we try to find out the opinion of people in cultural institutions, publishing houses, high schools and the social media. We centralize the results and together with the Hyperion Cultural Foundation in Botosani we analyze the work of the top ten poets. Five, and in the past two years, seven poets, have their work assessed by a jury whose number of members has also increased. There are seven personalities who nominate the winner. So it’s quite hard to choose the best poet, because there are many talented poets in Romanian literature. It’s impossible to grant awards to all of them. “
Some of the names that have been “recovered,” as poet Gellu Dorian put it, are Gellu Naum, Ana Blandiana, Ştefan Augustin Doinaş, Ileana Mălăncioiu, Dorin Tudoran. Ileana Malanciou, winner of the award at the fifth edition of the event, also came up with the idea of offering an award for best debut. This is why, since 1998, the Ipotesti Memorial in Botosani has granted the “Mihai Eminescu” National Award for Opera Prima. The winners of the 16 editions held so far include Doru Mareş, Liviu Georgescu, Răzvan Ţupa, Dan Sociu and, this year, Ştefan Baghiu. And it was not long ago that literary critic Mircea Martin was wondering; “how long before one of the poets awarded for best debut so far will return to Botoşani to receive the Grand Prize?”
This is also the question that we asked the initiator of the Mihai Eminescu Award, poet Gellu Dorian: “There is no doubt that all the poets that have received this debut prize are rising stars. Some of them have published a lot of books—such is the case with Liviu Georgescu, the winner of the third edition. Indeed, professor Mircea Martin, who has been a member of the jury ever since the beginning, and is also a member of the jury for the debut award, has asked a justified question. We believe that soon enough, probably at the 20th edition or so, we may have a nomination of this kind.”
We remind you that at the 23rd edition, the “Mihai Eminescu” National Poetry Award for lifetime achievement was granted to poet Ion Mureşan, by a jury chaired by Romanian Academy member Nicolae Manolescu and made up of Mircea Martin, Cornel Ungureanu, Ion Pop, Alexandru Cistelecan, Mircea Diaconu and Ioan Holban. Also nominated for the award, apart from Ion Mureşan, were writers Mircea Cărtărescu, Liviu Ioan Stoiciu, Lucian Vasiliu, Constantin Abăluţă, Ovidiu Geraru and Vasile Vlad. The prize, worth 20 thousand lei, as well as the trophy, were handed to Ion Mureşan in a special gala organised during the Mihai Eminescu Days. Just like his predecessors, the winner received the honorary citizenship of Botoşani.
The “Mihai Eminescu” National Poetry Award has been granted every year on January the 15th, the birthday of national poet Mihai Eminescu. Under a law promulgated in December 2010, January the 15th is also the National Culture Day.