On the morning of February 24th, the world was stunned by news that no human being could ever desire: a war was being waged in the heart of Europe. The Vilnius Book Fair, a beloved annual festival of literature began that very day. Only this year, the festival was imbued with sadness and the premonition of world war: not a single book presentation, discussion, concert or poetry reading was performed without a reference to the war. Thirty-two years ago, as Lithuania had been fighting for independence, poetry could be heard at every demonstration, rally and meeting: once again poetry has become an important form of resistance and a means for expressing civic responsibility. This time, the battle is being waged by Ukraine, and Lithuanian poets dedicate their verses to her and her people.
Lithuanian poets and writers have responded to the war in Ukraine in various ways: the voices of those who have lost their faith in the power and meaning of their art, those who feel paralysed, poisoned by anger and hatred, can be heard on social media. Others continue to write silently; still others contribute to relief work for Ukrainian refugees. Poet and translator, editor of the Vilnius Review, Marius Burokas, has become one of the most reliable war chroniclers on Facebook.
Ukraine‘s heroism has inspired the Lithuanian Culture Institute to create a poetry archive to document the authentic experiences of and contemplations on the war and the empathy for Ukraine. Some of the poems have been translated into Ukrainian and English and disseminated to wider audiences. An unexpectedly large number of authors, some well-known, others completely unknown, from Lithuania and beyond her borders, responded to the poetry initiative. We invite you to become acquainted with some of their testimonies.
Introduction by Rūta Mėlynė
Translated by Jura Avizienis
In partnership with Lithuanian Culture Institute
“So, when I finally cark it and like a flash they hand me over to the fury of Hades they’ll install faucets to shower me with streams of molten lead into my every crevice endlessly methodically for some eighteen thousand years that is if I get them to reduce my sentence with my mouth full of lead I won‘t be able to shout this fucking hurts! the attentive staff pleasantly reassuring me quit fidgeting you piece of shit calm the fuck down it‘s just a special Botox treatment for half the price you got yourself a sweetheart deal bastards like you always luck out: you brought your own materials for melting asshole we‘re only charging for labour“ February 24, 2022
By Artūras Valionis
Translated by Jura Avizienis
Artūras Valionis (b. 1973) is a writer, poet, and translator. He has published five poetry books, one poetry anthology and a book of essays, and has received several awards and prizes for his works. Valionis’s poems have been translated into 14 languages. His most recent book, the selected poetry collection Lėta medžiagų apykanta (Slow Tolerance, 2021) contains new, previously unpublished poems as well as a selection of works from his previous poetry books – Skrendant nelieka pėdsakų (There are no traces left while flying: poems, 2003), Apytiksliai trys (Approximately three: poems, 2012), Daugiau šviesos mūsų vartus (More light to our gates: poetry, 2014), Iš natų. Kameriniai kūriniai vienišam balsui (Playing by notes. Chamber works for a lonely voice: poetry, 2015), π-moll (π-moll: poems, 2018).
Valionis is constantly looking for new forms of expression: he collaborates with jazz musicians, performers of academic music, has organized joint performances with the Vinyl DJ, etc. Composers Vaclovas Augustinas and Vytautas V. Barkauskas have written music based on Valionis’s work.
Jura Avizienis has been translating Lithuanian literature since the early 1990s. Her first translations appeared in Violeta Kelertas’s anthology of Soviet-Lithuanian literature: Come Into My Time: Lithuania in Prose Fiction, 1970-90. The project inspired her to get her Master’s Degree in Lithuanian literature at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has translated over thirty-five short stories, essays, novels, plays and a graphic novel. The Lithuanian Culture Institute poetry initiative is her first foray into translating poetry.
Photo by Lisa Kalloo
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