- Lithuania -
Giedrė Kazlauskaitė, born in 1980, studied Lithuanian language and literature at Vilnius University, where she tried writing a doctoral dissertation.
She won a prize for the best debut in the "Poetry Spring" Almanac in 2000. Her first book was prose Sudie, mokykla! (Bye-Bye, School!), her second book – poetry Heterų dainos (keturiasdešimt eilėraščių), Songs of Hetaeras (poems), 2008. She was awarded by “The Young Yotvingian prize” as a best young poet for this book in 2009.
Giedrė‘s third book, written together with Father Julius Sasnauskas, presents commentary on the gospels. Her fourth book – poetry: Meninos (Las Meninas). The book is chosen by competent Commission to Five best poetry books of 2014 in Book of the Year Campaign.
Since 2010, she was served as the editor of the weekly cultural periodical Šiaurės Atėnai (Athens of the North).
Giedrė Kazlauskaitė (b. 1980) has studied Lithuanian language and literature at Vilnius University. She is a PhD student of Lithuanian literature at the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore.
Giedrė started her creative life from publishing to youth and children magazines in 2000. Giedrė’s first prose book Sudie, mokykla! (Bye-Bye, School!), was published in 2001 after she won a Writer’s Union possibility to publish her first book. We can find main themes in this book: her personal relationship with Good, secret of belief and paradoxes. There are many different experiences of young man, who looks for belief, God and virtues of life. This makes you to rethink your relationship with your friends, family and other people. Subtle irony is special for Giedrė’s texts in this book.
Giedrė participated in the Festival "Poetry Spring" and was awarded with prize for the best debut in Poetry Spring Almanac.
Giedrė starts to write essays for portal www.bernardinai.lt and cultural weekly "Šiaurės Atėnai" Also she prepares radio essays for a catholic radio broadcast "Mažoji studija" (Lithuanian Radio and Television) and book reviews and interviews with writers for Lithuanian Television (broadcasts "Kultūros naujienos", "Kultūra"). She becomes a literature critic with very original view. Later in 2006 she was awarded with J. KUNČINAS prize for the best text of optional readings (The award is given in the short prose reading festival "I have came to Friend, or Ginger Evenings", in remembrance of Lithuanian writer Jurgis Kunčinas, in Alytus).
She wrote poetry also but prose was her more visible side. She published her poetry in different Lithuanian cultural weekly and monthly magazines – "Nemunas", "Šiaurės Atėnai", "Metai". In 2002 her poetry was presented in Frankfurt book Fair in Almanac of Six young Lithuanian poets / Laurynas Katkus, Tomas S. Butkus, Marius Burokas, Jurgita Butkytė, Agnė Žagrakalytė, Giedrė Kazlauskaitė; selected and translated by Kerry Shawn Keys.
She read her poetry in Druskininkai Poetic Fall Festival in Readings by Young Lithuanian Poets and was awarded with poet’s Antanas A. Jonynas prize named "Pushkin" as the best young poet of the festival in 2007.
Giedrė publishes a second book "Heterų dainos (keturiasdešimt eilėraščių)", Songs by Heteras (forty poems) in 2008 and a new period begins in her creative life together with first published poetry book. Same year she was awarded for the best essay in the "Poetry Spring" Almanac. "The Young Yotvingian prize" comes to Giedrė as a best young poet for this book in Druskininkai Poetic Fall Festival in 2009.
Giedrė calls writing as an instinct – it’s something deep inside what you can’t change or refuse. Her poetry book is about women or maybe about some women inside her. Women in Giedrė’s poetry are lonely, distinctive members of some (bees’) community (Renata Šerelytė, "Šiaurės Atėnai"). Some of critics call Giedrė Kazlauskaitė feminine writer but she tells that she is allergic to ideologies, doctrines, and organizations and thinks that poetry can’t be feminine or masculine.
Giedrė‘s third book, written together with Father Julius Sasnauskas Postilės (Biblijos komentarai: kartu su Julium Sasnausku). Postils (Biblical commentaries, co-author Fr. Julius Sasnauskas) presents commentary on the gospels. This book came from her work in catholic radio broadcast "Mažoji studija". The book tries to explain truths of Bible, to "translate" them to human language.
Her fourth book and second poetry book "Meninos" (Las Meninas). The book was published in 2013 and it is chosen to five best poetry books of 2014 in Book of the Year Campaign. The book was awarded by Elena Mezginaitė Prize. It will be given during "Panevėžys Wnter" festival, in remembrance of writer Elena Mezginaitė.
The first and the last poems in this book are about poetry. It shows how inportant it is for poet. I write everything in language of poetry. All my experience and memories from childhood tells Giedrė.
Giedrė is an editor of the weekly cultural periodical Šiaurės Atėnai (Athens of the North) and she is a member of Writer’s Union since 2011.
(Untitled) / (Untitled)
I had not yet read Lacan,
but I knew that there are no women.
Men revealed it to me.
On the trolley bus, I was afraid of sitting next to them
with their aria glances, confidence, sitting legs splayed wide
across almost one and a half seats.
And I remember very well what Wislawa said to me, when she became
a ballerina, despite wanting to be an artist; we spoke in strange languages
with a Petersburg accent, which was preserved in her
by those dried out old choreographers I despised;
teachers with gray heads, black ribbons
leaning on canes, they would come
to the dining hall and weigh the curds, so that when Wislawa
vomited up the carton of Napoleon torte, she would
stop drawing servings.
Oh, how terribly she betrayed everything she had talked about! Just so that she could,
perched on one thigh, press herself onto
that half of a trolleybus seat.
And I remember what I was told
by another Wislawa, who wrote
about the river of Heraclitus, where a fish quarters a fish
much later, in the same language, she almost forgets
emerging from our childhood like a myth
of our continually-vomited existence:
she did not lie about the fact that she likes
sentimental postcards, gilded in glitter;
sweet like dessert curds
porcelain figurines, cross-stitched swans.
She always searched for them in kitschy shops.
She weighed them like servings.
And she could buy so many after the Nobel Prize!
But her words were boats that I secretly used
to cast off all the males in the Illiad
I cast off all of my un-danceable instincts,
I bricked up the sound.
Near the river in the spring,
this is how birds call to one another.© translated by Ada Valaitis
(Untitled) / (Untitled)
A girl in a white dress in the Europa Square
runs around those gravestones on which architects
should have written the Constitution or at least Symphony Nr. 9,
but they left room for graffiti and sentient skateboards.
I watch her from a terrace, from high above, even though it’s cold and the wind
tousles her hair, angrily jostling my dishes
as though it wanted to soak Erato’s clothes in my cooled soup.
I am reading the poetry of my friends (I know them all), and it’s unimportant
who writes better than whom, all sporting games
lose their meaning, in this hour
the olympics have stopped, the running paths
have become paths of death (they each write better
than the others – with dignity and slowly, following the rule of
never speaking, which is self-evident:
because we no longer care about the skies, nor about those miserable
laws of morality that are still vulgarized by sprinters.
All that is necessary was explained and comprehended a long time ago,
the names of the gods were learned, skateboarding lessons completed).
In their poems, they proudly
shed a few tears for us because we are so few, because no one
cares about Szymborska on sale or other lonely
books that have supplanted our poor biographies.
The girl, counting the symbolic gravestones, climbs
on each one of them – how unfortunate, an older woman,
ready to leave, pulls her by the hand.
Unexpectedly (more real than the wind) the daughter of the gods of Olympus
affected my heart; jasmine, which in Persian
means the gift of God (for me, she is literally
a jasmine broken by wind, which
closes books and cools soups).
In their poems
they raise the essential, the most important
question, which fades
the sky and all morals (they postulate
with silly journalists’ lips): where is that poetry?
The child, sitting on a gravestone responds: right here.
And where is that cursed happiness, that we
return to again and again in our childhoods?
Oh how I want, for her
to read these lines, when she grows up.© translated by Ada Valaitis
Aurora / Aurora
The Aurora was the ship of heroes
when we lived in a story.
Boys smelling of testosterone
liked drawing it, but they never saw it.
After a parade, when blank bullets were fired,
they ran to collect cartridges among the soldierly gravestones.
A rose-fingered winged goddess, in saffron colored clothes,
pours dew from golden cups. At school,
we believed in the honor of the shot that started the revolution.
Later, there were no more cradles, and people
swung their small children in swings.
They let them out to tend to animals only when they were older.
While I was an embryo
I would dream about the other side,
with undeveloped eyes
I would see images of paradise.
Those dreams about God
indescribable, making me
believe in his illogical existence
even in the stomach’s cavity, where her animals grazed.
Someone wrote letters to the philosopher –
misfits live underwater,
but words are weak, flabby muscles,
the bones of domesticated mutants.
in the stomachs of cruisers, in golden cups instead of rings,
simultaneous signs of the cross at your gates.
We dyed our hair grey, like that actress from the The Hours,
instead of a plush arch
she bequeathed a rosehip bush
with gently stinging bumblebees.
For twelve summers, I herded my animals, and only now
have I noticed how peacocks call to each other
in the voices of tigers.© translated by Ada Valaitis
Amazon bee women / Amazon bee women
while boiling potatoes
the women bees
are not afraid of dying
from the sting
of a cigarette
a sliver of ice
(cutting a vein
When cleaning the fridge)
even nun bees
seldom talk among themselves
and when speaking
they fashion houses
women in white smocks
in monastery beehives
solve chemical equations
extract each other
assemble each other
and they know
that their wax wings
are made from cells
that from a headcold the wings
run out of the nose
an effect of catalysts
that‘s why they never fall in love
less xx cells
than xy ones
but they build houses© translated by Rita Gelumbickaitė and Kerry Shawn Keys
Architectual sketch / Architektūrinis brėžinys
I knitted it myself from white yarn
following a scheme in an architectual sketch book
and spread it out on the table
I dreamt I had gone blind in the Byzantine fire
and that I came with the knitted napkin in hand
to your church at Wight
by the iron-gated churchyard your VW Passant
once I photographed you here with religious fanatics
at your side, you, covering your face with a briefcase
that had a sticker JESUS LOVES YOU
don’t be afraid I said your God has a beard too
and dosen’t shave on time
I climbed inside the crypt through the cellar
window brushing against bones and opened coffins
the fossils of the saints sighed sniffing the smoke and perfume
sometimes groping walls or my architectural knitting
I went down the corridors of the monastery
water ran down the walls or maybe the mildew of sweat
secret channels I had never seen stairs
creaking of hinges it’s good no one lives here at night
I’ll never return again
I went toward a pool in the inner yard of the monastery
holding the napkin clutching it like a rosary
and my faith in it was so strong that I immediately jumped in
my eyes wide open I believed in aqua vitae
and with my eyesight regained I woke up
a skull in my hands
my legs numb© translated by Rita Gelumbickaitė and Kerry Shawn Keys
I slip into the children's clothes shop / I slip into the children's clothes shop
I slip into the children‘s clothes shop
and start trying on babies‘ creepers
they‘re not for me I explain to the shop clerks
they‘re for my child (or for the child
How beautiful these little shirts
of jasmine petals
as a child I used to put the petals on sticks
fragrant little rings, material, from which
I made people
I used to talk for them
and they didn‘t need any food
Lady‘s fancy dresses and hats
or the fringed stockings of cavaliers
wrinkled faces put together
like kebabs on a skewer
in a child‘s t-shirt the size of a palm
with a picture of an orange tabby
I put my fingers inside you
to make-believe head and hands
in a puppet theatre
jasmine drying in ovens
(a wardrobe for clothes worn only once)
look like tomcats
drying in a microwave
or jasmine eau de cologne
don‘t look like my child
he is sewn up
inside the surplice of an acolyte
made from curtains
stolen by a jealous girl
who did not manage to pass for a boy
at Christmas Eve Mass© translated by Rita Gelumbickaitė and Kerry Shawn Keys
I raped myself / I raped myself
I raped myself
in an armchair under a laurel
to the sounds of pseudo-sacred music
the girl I kissed in my dream
turned into my mother
I woke up with a shrunken libido
and dangling breasts
her heavy breathing at night
the breaking of waves in my sea
the blocked up nostrils of seagulls
their muted cries
the god of meadows and milk
bids farewell to the ships
with thoughts from our evening prayers
in the morning he turns back into
my father in the life-vest of the world
his daughter who raped herself
is afraid of two things:
the night and the day© translated by Rita Gelumbickaitė and Kerry Shawn Keys
Pregnant with literature / Pregnant with literature
pregnant with literature
I named the reason
for taking an academic vacation
big-belled women at church
have gathered for the embryo’s Mass
an anatomy manual in my hands
with half-dead muscles
and in my rucksack
preserved malformed babies
and a dictionary
where Latin trees grow
I’m sitting in church
reading the stained glass
waiting for my belly
to get big© translated by Rita Gelumbickaitė and Kerry Shawn Keys
Going down the letters / Going down the letters
the letters get smaller and smaller
try to write
a poem like this
an ocular one
an optician puts
condoms like membranes
over my organs of sight
what freedom for my eyes
captive in an aquarium so long
they hop around the city
touch clear kisses
box with the wind in the ring, roll over
McDonald’s balloons, somersault
over the eyes of strangers, jump in
and run and stand on their heads
they were always asleep behind glass
now they fell like they’re in one-horse carriage
why such big eyes?
they won’t get together© Six young Lithuanian poets / Laurynas Katkus, Tomas S. Butkus, Marius Burokas, Jurgita Butkytė, Agnė Žagrakalytė, Giedrė Kazlauskaitė (Vaga, 2002), translated by Rita Gelumbickaitė and Kerry Shawn Keys
Let’s strew the streets / Let’s strew the streets
Let’s strew the streets with flower petals
you white bridal girls
the Easter of brides is here.
Cars and buses and trucks
even little horses with carriages
carousel elephants and kids with bikes –
we hurl flowers in their faces.
Girls love girls
in the small town streets
they kiss, run away from the procession
then kiss again in the doorway of the church.
Tomorrow they’ll die
leafed through and written off.
Tomorrow I’ll die
of reading and writing.© Six young Lithuanian poets / Laurynas Katkus, Tomas S. Butkus, Marius Burokas, Jurgita Butkytė, Agnė Žagrakalytė, Giedrė Kazlauskaitė (Vaga, 2002), translated by Rita Gelumbickaitė and Kerry Shawn Keys
I don't want to ride my bicycle, but it's obligatory. If I don't, this little town will vaporise me from the street like a wet tyre track and I, having achieved nothing, will be forced to travel to no-man's-land without having visited my promised land. Memory is also earth; more precisely it's dirt in which a bicycle tyre track is similar to a snakeskin. Bicycles scare me because of their supernatural powers. They make it seem like you are either flying or swimming, but you are only pumping pedals (I also feel an indescribable loathing of exercise equipment); the cycles, that is to say the wheels, turn, but you always find yourself in a different place. I came back to this place only to check one more time that the masts of the ships – reminiscent of crosses, the confectionery swans on a wedding cake, and seagull-like wedding dresses – mean the same thing to me. I've returned to pet the elk, whose gentle faces cause my heart to melt and whose large eyes make my soul feel more noble. Nida – my resiny sustainer of life. Actually, I didn't want to come back to you, but it's an obligation which is a part of my spiritual discipline. Really. I grabbed some Rosso delle Venezie, some bread, nuts, and dried fruit, and went to catch Curonian sprites. 'Do you hear the Sea?' I asked a pal from the Inst. Pontificio Musica Sacra. 'Do you hear the organ?' he answered my question with a question; it seems I had called during a lesson. I don't have a generation (it died along with George Sand and the last of the Witches of Šatrija), but I can explain what the sea means to me on a personal level. God? No. Death? No. Lots of water? No, again. Can't say that it means absolutely nothing to me. The sea is our solitude and our insanity. 'We'll drink sea water until we go completely mad. Then, at least we'll have a place to live. We'll have a home.' That's from a youthful poetic manifesto. You can play me the sea when the organ's manuals become a computer keyboard, and my rented bicycle a piece of purchased exercise gear. I played a little in the sand at the seashore. With shards from the lagoon I scratch out imagined heads. You, don't read too many newspapers, because your head will start to hurt from the lead in the print. I scratched images of dresses in the fine sand: many, many dresses. I saw that this was good, but I knew it wasn't.
It rained in the morning. I drank coffee in bed and listened to Mireille Mathieu, and then I went out into the yard barefoot. 'You're like Bunin,' a friend of mine once told me. (Because he also had the habit of going to the market in the mornings, in his pyjamas, and buying pears.) It's the veritable truth: I experience great satisfaction when I mimic idols. I came here for the first time because I had been bewitched by a mythical writer. I had probably read Death in Venice, and in Nida I was visited by immortality. The silent piano and and play of light on the walls of his home still move me. As far as books, I took only a breviary and a small tome of Achmatova's writings. I read the prayers in the cemetery as the sun went down, addressing the souls of those christened at the feet of beds, as well as those who were unchristened. 'Ich bin die Auferstehung und das Leben. Asz esmi Prisikelimas ir Gywastis,' the cemetery gate proclaimed. A person sitting on a nearby bench, wonderfully managing to skirt the edge of both those worlds, tries to address me in Curonian, but I don't understand anything he says. (A hundred years from now, I too will find myself sitting somewhere in the St. Petersburgh metro and I'll chat up the young Martians in what they think is a language of the Rosetta stone epoch). 'Do you read any sort of books?' a vicar my age asked me recently during confession. (I've noticed that I have this tendency to shine like a total illiterate in confessionals. Or else, I need to be quickly dispatched to an athletic club, AA, or to see a psychic.) One elderly priest always asks me where my parents live, and if I'm a university student. I lie about my address, and as far as my studies, I say I have instincts. Because that's all I'd need, for him to find them – my parents, I mean). And I answer his question with a question: 'Do you ever pray?' I hoped beyond all hope that father confessor would mumble: 'No'. We might at least have found some common ground. The priest, however, was a populist, and accompanied his provocation with touchingly optimistic salvos. If God is, in the end, the sea, then that wrinkled sand that one touches there where one goes swimming becomes his furrowed brow; and the finer sand – his thoughts which you have made a mess of. You tickle his temples and fight back as you swim, but out of respect for fear you don't tear yourself away from the shore, because we all know very well what that can lead to. There is something beastly about the sea; it's the waves most probably. Roaring, they descend on you before you have a chance to steel yourself for the duel of breaths. And they're always the stronger party. And they are stronger in number, too. Now leave us for a time to our solitude and madness. It's a sort of game. Similar to solitaire. You arrange the words.
If, in the end, death is the sea, as Brodski, I think it was, said, then it quite simply doesn't exist. Please, forgive me at this point for my forthright style. I once wrote a pretentious essay on Plato's Symposium: first, the lecturer cast an eye at my patterned paper, then at a blond second-year student who had bought the essay from me, and immediately noted that a misdemeanour had been committed. 'Write those ones more simply,' my friends lectured me at the time. 'If it's red, it's blood; if it's white, it's virginity. And no binary oppositions beyond that.' (And since then, that's been the way I write. A survival instinct.) Then I had to face a moral dilemma – return the money to her or not? I didn't since, after all, I had done the work . . . that of an executioner. I've been mulling the issue of suicide for some years, and I'm now something of an expert on the topic. There's no point. There is no such thing as death. Afterwards, you'd only end up in the same kettle of fish, or one that's even worse. Here you dig ditches; there you're a ditch being dug – and the latter one is more painful.
If the sea is just a huge quantity of water, and I a huge number of molecules and atoms, it is nonetheless resplendent with beauty and tender secrets, a joy to see and smell, and all the rest is not of my concern. As night falls, I get ready to go into the woods to look for elk. They are here in Elchreviere, but all I hear is the heaving of the trees' swollen bark. When you press your cheek hard into it, your face bears an imprint for some time. Warm elk tears fall onto the small of my back. The deer are probably up top: flying beasts dating back to the era of Thomas Mann. The world is unsafe until we learn how to narrate it. After all, as God's creatures, we must cause inhuman fright for ourselves.
However, the fear-driving-factor is not me in this case, but the Parnidżio Dune, where I never feel alone; I feel like I lose everything there (earrings. watches. camera. feelings. people.) Even the sea with its angular waves, as if bridling before a strange and impenetrable wall of conquerors, does not require such a complicated and lengthy period of breaking in. Overall, the dunes have something hopelessly lifeless about them; they are indifferent to everyone and everything. The sea feigned wrath, but I would charge into it doggedly, several times each day, and the two of us started to find our rhythm. The eyebrows of its waves gradually became more feminine, softening and becoming almost like Frida Kahlo's. The majority of wackos experience acute relapses during certain seasons of madness (afterwards, when the the seasons have again changed, the episodes level off and become blunted) – they fall ill with a fatal immortality. I wouldn't know how to explain what happens to them at that moment (though I've practised it many times). The public knows this phenomenon because of the increase in the concentration of perverts in streetcars and in windows. It's impossible to prevent this; it's textbook chemistry, and maybe physics too. A nuclear accident or something occurs in their noodle. But I don't understand how they aren't immolated when they burn in such a way. They burn and burn like the inextinguishable candles on a HAPPY BIRTHDAY cake, or the eternal flame in a military cemetery. Like the candles in the wreaths of Orthodox churches. Incidentally, in a Catholic church it is possible to understand absolutely nothing. In an Orthodox church, I understand everything. The glint of the icons is as clear to me as the surface of a photograph; the squabbling colours correspond to the decrepit chakras; the expressions of the dark faces of saints are more intimate than a mirror; and the women cleaning the floor are incarnations of the reason for my coming here. Between the prayers, the kisses, the bowing, and the crazy reading of religious books, they chit-chat about doormats and quilts, they sweep the rug by the door meticulously, beyond which they are not allowed to step foot. The women's heads are wrapped in scarves, their skirts hinder their legs, and they talk with me, regardless of who I am. The starfishes I keep in my home are similar to hands, and sometimes to people. I sewed dresses for them all out of scraps of floral-patterned material.
Forty minutes before the Pope died, I left the church (This is important! I mean, having an alibi. After all, I wasn't in a night club, which means I'm virtuous) and on Pilies Street I was stopped by a bunch of eighth-graders who were whooping it up. There were many of them, probably a whole class or a swim club. They were playing drums, plastic bottles and something else in a fluxus-like way, like live chickens and rabbits in the vestibule of a church on Easter morning. 'We don't have our instruments with us,' they explained to me, asking me politely for some spare change. I gave the tweens some money. I wasn't upset that they were living it up at the very hour of the Pope's death. They seemed utterly normal to me. The rhythms tapped out on their plastic bottles helped me pray. What of it if our tablecloths are white while our sentiments are black. We pray coldly, while God is obliged to learn to be emotionless. Our God is as virtuous as we are. Cut from the same cloth. We held him in crinoline cages, like a dress afraid to catch on.© Giedrė Kazlauskaitė, Up and coming young Lithuanian writers (Books from Lithuania, 2006), translated by Darius James Ross
/ 3 March 2015