Gintaras Grajauskas: heart of amber

Gintaras Grajauskas, Lithuanian poet

The following is the full text of the English translation of the article published on Subway Edizioni


Imagine: all of a sudden a man crosses the threshold of your home. Unexpected yet always awaited, the stranger in a few seconds reinvents your reality. Surprisingly, it makes you feel at your ease.

This man acts as if everyone’s home was a little bit his own. As if he was dancing inside a tailcoat he’s wearing – barefoot, with a top-hat on his head and the shirt slightly unbuttoned. The clarinet he’s playing, beyond the easy and disarming notes, releases letters, words and poetry. For some seconds, space and time fuse into a different form, a different colour. Your eyes begin to see things you couldn’t even imagine: there are words hanging all around, from the ground to the ceiling, on the walls instead of paintings, and on your heart. These words, though cleaned and torn out of any structure – or the noise – are full of power and get revived in music.

No doubts: that man is Gintaras Grajauskas.

His poetry is a wave that patiently and constantly captures you in an indefinite rhythm. The sole warning: get ready to totally abandon yourself, put aside your judgements and prejudices. Let yourself be seized by an almost electric pulse of the verses.

Nomen omen, the Romans used to say. In Lithuanian, Gintaras indeed means amber, which is known for its characteristic to get electrified when rubbed. The poet puts the words together and, rubbing against each other, electrifies them till they burst into a sudden electric shock.

Moreover: amber crystalizes things to later return them intact – to get them re-discovered, re-contextualized in the new horizon of space and time. The poetry of Grajauskas is powerful because, as every Art with a capital “A”, it remains contemporary. The imagery is inspired by urban environment that often assumes the face of a port city, presumably Klaipėda, where the poet lives and works.

As Valentinas Sventickas puts it, “poetry, if it aspires to a noteworthy role, cannot get along without the storytelling – that narrative nucleus able to influence the reader”.

The contemporariness of Grajauskas’ poetry lies in its style – colloquial and unafraid of getting contaminated or “soiled” by the street voice. It lies in the tension of the language – tending towards spoken everyday intonations; at the same time, the poet seems well aware of the need for storytelling in the contemporary consciousness.

Another core feature of Grajauskas’ poems is ironic/comic register, which turns out to be particularly efficient in livening up his verses. Just think about the poem “Dievo dažnis yra 50 Hz” (God’s Frequency Is 50 Hz) in the collection Kaulinė dūdelė (A Bone Pipe, 1999) or “Eilėraštis apie lietuviškojo identiteto paieškas” (A Poem on the Search for Lithuanian Identity) in the collection Naujausių laikų istorija: vadovėlis pradedantiesiems (A History of the Newest Times: A Manual for Beginners, 2004) where Lithuanians are described from a German tourist’s point of view: in this text, Grajauskas seems to employ irony in order to exorcize the sadness typical to Lithuanians while repeating, in a sort of refrain:

“nes nyku mums šitaip gyventi“ (because it is sad for us to live in this way).

Grajauskas’ poetry seems to crystalize moments of daily life not (only) for shedding a new light on them but (also) for making them travel further and forward, making them last a bit longer. As if trying to establish a link, a dialogue with an imagery future:

“Generally, I see literature in a slightly antiquated way, as a sort of trial to find a common language: if not for the millions and not even for the thousands, at least for two. /…/ What matters is the dialogue, let it be imagery or illusionary. Or, merely a possibility to establish a dialogue.”

It is a trial to unite the ordinary with the extraordinary in a surprisingly amazing transformation, or as St. Francis of Assisi writes:

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

In Grajauskas’ work, poetry is a trial, vain, to elude the time – “tiesiog stumiu laiką, / o jis nesitraukia” (I’m simply killing time / but it does not shrink); while the word – essential, limpid and crystalized – is the heart of amber, a precious moment fixed but still alive and pulsing. Possibly eternal in the wonder of re-discovery and knowledge.


I build a barricade
around myself

push the wardrobe and the bed together,
bring down the refrigerator

they send a negotiator
a pizza seller

resistance is senseless, he says

resistance is senseless, I agree

he leaves as the victor
leaving pizza with crabs

a postman comes: here is
a registered letter for you, sign please

I sign, both of us are smiling
resistance is senseless the letter says

I don’t argue, agree politely
the situation is beyond hope

then a Mormon comes do you know
the divine plan, the Mormon asks

I do, resistance is senseless,
I say, the Mormon murmurs down the stairs

I improve my barricade, stuffing up the gaps
with old newspapers and chewing gum

the doorbell rings, and there’s again

the pizza seller behind the door,
the Mormon and the postman

what else, I ask

you were right, they say, resistance
is senseless, the situation is beyond hope

so we are on the same
side of barricade

From A History of the Newest Times: A Manual for Beginners. English translation by Antanas Danielius

Text by Davide Ferrari
English translation by Jurgita Po.Alessi
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