Poetry Travels: Lithuanian Poets for Ukraine – THAT’S ALL by Jurgita Jasponytė, translated by Jura Avizienis

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


Where his blood was shed
There a rose bloomed.
Death is just wounded breathing--
no, pardon me, not wounded. Severed.
 
during Russia’s war on Ukraine
I keep forgetting to breathe
I keep catching myself heaving a sigh
trying to take in a deep breath
my lungs feel short of air:
I may be holding my breath as I follow events, I don’t know
I may just be forgetting
 
blood devoid of oxygen is nought
it is shed freely there
emptying out with the last breath
 
*
naval battle games
when you shoot at simulated ships
are just an exercise for improving reaction time and strategy
                                                                                                that’s all
just squares on a sheet of paper
but now I ask my daughter not to tell me anything
about those games
because it’s not squares I see
that’s all
death is just severed breathing
cells die as we stop breathing
 
I don’t remember my first breath in this world
but giving birth taught me to breathe
I don’t know what we learn as we die.
 
March 2, 2022

By Jurgita Jasponytė

Translated by Jura Avizienis


Jurgita Jasponytė was born in 1981 in Zarasai. She began her studies at Vilnius Pedagogical University in 1999 and went on to receive a BA in Lithuanian philology and an MA in literature. She works as a librarian, raising her daughters Ugne and Jūre Jotvile. Her poetry collection Šaltupė (the name of a Zarasai street, meaning “cold river”) won the Lithuanian Writer’s Union First Book Contest. In 2015, she won the Zigmas Gėlė Prize for best poetic debut. Her second poetry collection Vartai Auštriejį (The Sharp Gates of Dawn) was published in 2019 and was awarded Vladas Šlaitas Prize and also Vilnius Mayor Prize for poems about Vilnius.


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

Check out the Poetry Travels book list on bookshop.org.

Read previous poems from Poetry Travels:

UNTITLED by Linas Umbrasas, translated by Audra Skukauskaitė

FIRST SPRING OF THE WAR by Vytautas Kaziela, translated by Jura Avizienis

A LETTER TO A CHILD by Lina Buidavičiutė, translated by Ada Valaitis

UNTITLED by Aneta Kamińska, translated by Anna Blasiak

TWO LYRICS OF LOVE AND MEMORY by Lina Kostenko, translated by Stephen Komarnyckyj

CROW STUDY by Yuri Andrukhovych, translated by John Hennessy and Ostap Kin

UNTITLED POEM by Serhiy Zhadan, translated by John Hennessy and Ostap Kin

UNTITLED POEM by Ludmila Khersonsky, translated by Maya Chhabra

UNTITLED POEM by Iryna Vikyrchak

From THE ANDROMEDA NEBULA by Anna Gréki, translated by Souheila Haïmiche and Cristina Viti

TEAPOT by Nurduran Duman, translated by Andrew Wessels

IT’S COMING AGAIN by Michael Strunge, translated by Paul Russell Garrett

REPORT FROM ANOTHER CITY by Marcin Niewirowicz, translated by the Author

INTERIOR by Ana Blandiana, translated by Paul Scott Derrick and Viorica Patea

THIS IS LOVE by Joanna Fligiel, translated by Anna Blasiak

REVELATION IN H&M by Menno Wigman, translated by David Colmer

*** (I WANT TO FOLD THIS DAY) by Inga Pizāne, translated by Jayde Will

THE SIEGE by Marcin Świetlicki, translated by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese

FISH by Jana Putrle Srdić, translated by Barbara Jurša

THE WELL by Maarja Pärtna, translated by Jayde Will

THE SHADOW by Pentti Saarikoski, translated by Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah

A FAREWELL TO MY DEAD CLASS by Irit Amiel, translated by Anna Blasiak and Marta Dziurosz

THE GIRLS IN BERGEN-BELSEN by Nora Gomringer, translated by Annie Rutherford

DECEMBER, by Jaume Subirana, translated by Christopher Whyte

ROSE RED, by Ulrike Almut Sandig, translated by Karen Leeder

*** (I D[R]IPPED MY PEN…) by Mario Martín Gijón, translated by Terence Dooley

WHAT COMES by Magda Cârneci, translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Mădălina Bănucu

TRANSLATION by Justyna Bargielska, translated by Maria Jastrzębska

*** (MY EYES, DENSE NIGHT…) by Gëzim Hajdari, translated by Ian Seed

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