/ 29 May 2024

Versopolis Podcast #16: Poetry and Alcohol

Ramunė Brundzaitė & Sergej Harlamov

Why are so many poets heavy drinkers? Over the centuries, many writers have been addicted to alcohol, some of them write about their problems in compelling and memorable ways. Hemingway drank ‘to make other people more interesting’, while F. Scott Fitzgerald came out with the famous line, ‘first you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you’. From Steinbeck to Joyce to Bukowski, the fate of many writers is epitomised by Brendan Behan’s comment that he is a ‘drinker with a writing problem’. In this episode, we explore how the altered states of consciousness are connected to artistic expression. How is alcohol entangled in our culture and spiritual life? What are some of the healthier alternatives that promote creativity? Ramunė Brundzaitė is a Lithuanian poet, whose second poetry book titled Fellowship of Empty Bottles (2022), delves into the questions of overcoming the thirst for alcohol, looking for an ‘… attempt to establish a real, honest, sincere connection with other people, a fellowship that can replace any bottle, empty or full’. Also joining her is Sergej Harlamov, a Slovenian poet, who says he was ‘a nasty drunk’ while writing his first poetry collection, but that the problem was not seen as grave in the context of his working-class upbringing.

Ramunė Brundzaitė is a poet, philologist and translator. In 2013, her first collection of poetry titled Drugy, mano drauge (Moth, my Friend) was awarded the Young Yotving’s prize. In 2015–2016 she had a graduate internship in Trieste. Brundzaitė published her second poetry book Tuščių butelių draugija (Fellowship of Empty Bottles) in 2022, which was selected by Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore as the Most Creative Book of 2022.

Sergej Harlamov is a poet, sociologist and literary comparativist. As the winner of the Slovene Literary Festival for Young Authors Urška, he released his debut collection Jedci (Eaters) in 2011. In 2019, his second poetry collection Mnogoboj mitologij (Melee of Mythologies) was nominated for the Jenko Award and the Slovene Literary Critics Association Award. In 2022 he was shortlisted for Velenjica Award and released his third poetry collection Hypomnemata that was nominated for Veronika and Jenko Award.