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Benediktas Januševičius is a poet and translator, and a tireless chronicler, cameraman and photographer of Lithuanian literary life. He is one of the most curious language experimenters in Lithuania. He started with punk surrealist poems and created poem-objects and is now exploring the possibilities of language and sounds. His urban lexicon is embellished with jargon and “street” language. According to the counter-culture activist Darius Pocevičius, “Having consistently examined the oberiuts, the dadaists, the surrealists, the Vienna School, Fluxus, the minimalists, the conceptualists, and finally, the Lithuanian ‘Four Winds’ figures, and having let them filter through his archetypically Lithuanian peasant brain, Benukas [the diminutive form of Benediktas] has succeeded in fending off the school of rigid decadent Lithuanian poetry.”

a palmers chronicle right bw

Comics

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 Roberta Vaigeltaitė-Vasiliūnienė, No storks, no childrens. 2012, paper,woodcut, 48,5 x 100,5 cm. From The Modern Art Center collection
 

Poems from the book „Words“

 

disabled poem

Poems can always be exchanged for other poems
– Michael Augustin

this text doesn’t have an end and perhaps no beginning either
it’s just a text and nothing more

this text can’t save the world
it’s just a text and nothing more

this text has no point
it’s just a text and nothing more

this text has no meaning
it’s just a text and nothing more

this text could be no one’s
it’s just a text and nothing more

this text doesn’t have a heart that could stop beating
it’s just a text which

can’t die for its fatherland
it’s just a text and nothing more

this text is not about love
so it’s just a text and nothing more

nothing is written here
about sex or mortal diseases
it’s just a text and nothing whatsoever more

nothing is said here about harmful habits:
smoking, getting drunk, narcotics

and you won’t find answers here to pressing questions,
e.g., is your fiancé faithful?
where can I get a good job? how can I make lots of money?

so – ask yourselves – what is this text for?
this text and nothing more

why such a text if nothing hurts?
why a text if everything is already understood?

it’s hard to see, you see, this text has no mouth
so it can’t speak

this text has no hands, so it can’t gesticulate
this text has no feet, so it won’t go away

 


maybe everything has already been written

Mary Shelley once wrote Frankenstein
Bram Stoker – Dracula
from neither this nor that, Dostoyevsky came up with Demons
and Borges – the entire Book of Imaginary Beings
Chekhov offered them “Ward No. 6”

but such trivialities didn’t please Tolstoy – he wanted something broader
so he patched together War and Peace
Remarque went off to war to get clear on the what and wherefor
and understood that war is shit
Hašek was also in the same war
and similarly understood that war is shit
that peace is much better, and beer
then Apollinaire died in that war and never wrote anything else

Vonnegut was also sent to war, but landed in a different one
the second, and was taken into German captivity
he saw how American and English planes bombed Dresden
tens of thousands of people died there
“what can you do?” – remarked Vonnegut
Orwell spent the war at home and soon experienced
how big brother is watching everyone
Bukowski also missed that war
he just drank and wrote, wrote and drank
drinking is more fun, after all, than dying in war
he wrote it like that: “and I drank...”
no! those are the words of Venedikt Yerofeyev
he wrote it like that: “and I drank...”
and he drank
(then came a pause, taking up a whole chapter)

Bulgakov, in his turn, took morphine, later
his bibliography was enhanced by the story “Morphine”
Junkie made Burroughs famous
although Cocaine Romance made no one famous
the author remaining unknown for some time
some thought it might be Nabokov’s
but they received threatening letters from the writer’s widow
and promptly desisted

Sorokin’s characters in Norm looked particularly normal
they didn’t use intoxicants, but periodically swallowed
what had already been swallowed before
it’s not clear what Kharms’ heroes used, nevertheless
he forgot what comes first: 7 or 8, 8 or 7
even if he had wanted to, Dickens couldn’t have helped much
because he could count only up to A Tale of Two Cities
Dumas didn’t do much better with The Three Musketeers
Ilf and Petrov did a little better, getting The Twelve Chairs
into one book, but they witheld information from Kharms’ character
who died still no knowing what comes first: 7 or 8, 8 or 7
but then the irrepressible Jules Verne decided to show everyone
where the fishes go to sleep and dove Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

unmoved by ocean depths, Romain Gary became a pilot
and rose up into the sky
then shot himself later
Kerouac went out on the road and never came back
Mayakovsky shot himself
Platonov died of tuberculosis
Hemingway shot himself
Pushkin didn’t want to do that, so he had to be finished off

so what can we add to this?

 

on freedom

there is no freedom – say the optimists
give us back our freedom – say the sceptics

today it’s not so easy to talk about freedom
freedom, it seems, is a kite that has bolted on a long journey
it’s a river slithering by
freedom is like a rock flung at a friend’s forehead
freedom is knowing that no one else is responsible for the consequences,
that he himself is to blame for everything, because he happened to be at the wrong place
at the wrong time, you see, he woke up and got up
and thought the wrong thing, gazed in the wrong way
maybe his soul received the wrong injections

freedom – a felled tree, still holding on to life
and when it finally lets go – you can use it!
freedom – a mortally wounded animal
whose flesh will soon be torn by vultures,
this once sweet word
has today grown bitter, frayed – it’s homeless

some hold forth on the merits of servitude
many say, to hell with this freedom
we just want a normal life
(I intended to change the words “to hell” but forgot)

freedom is now so transparent that you can barely see it
a little bird pushed out of its nest has the freedom to flounder
time is free – it can’t stop
the freedom to lie is somehow considered justice
but that can’t be freedom, I wonder, and don’t know what to answer
because today it’s so hard to talk about freedom
everything I could say might already have been said
already used, already sorted out

“I’m free” – just two words in my language
already without meaning
too many people are worried about my freedom
they watch it, weigh it, grope it, diagnose and describe it
they formulate it and define it
publish it and stamp it with a seal
then leave it to suffocate

am I free? – I ask myself
could I be free? – I have my doubts
am I under arrest? – not yet



train histories

in the morning, around 8:35, a train departed from point A to point B
at the same time, another train departed from point B to point A, unfortunately,
the trains didn’t meet or pass each other on the way
the train from point C left with a clamour – it was reserved
the train from point D is delayed, the engineer explained:
there is a war on now, so trains are running late, nothing to be done,
we’ll get moving sometime, no point in pretending
from point E, the train flew like a bat out of hell, but soon began to clank,
pant and then stand still
the engineer for the train from point F decided that his job that he’s worked
for 17 years is unpleasant, so he jumped out of the locomotive;
furthermore, today is Thursday, a good day to begin a new life
trains are strictly forbidden to leave point G, and
no one comments on the circumstances as to why
the train from point H left on time and got lost
the train from point I left in secret
the train from point H left at noon. when the column reached its goal,
it turned out that the train had no passengers. where they went, no one knew
the train departed from point K, but point K has no train station,
nor any train tracks
the train left point L but when it reached the tunnel it turned back
the train departed point M but ran out of fuel, rumors are flying
that it just remained sitting there where it came to a halt
the train from point N only left after a week because
it couldn’t decide which route to take
the train from point O didn’t even budge because...
the train from point P was hindered from starting its journey by weather conditions
the train didn’t leave point Q because of circumstances that should not be mentioned
in decent company
just after leaving point R, the train managed to run off its tracks
the train was stuck at point S because the route was cancelled
on the train leaving point T, the conductor looked two sheets to the wind –
he could barely stand on two feet, and berated the passengers whom
he suspected of holding counterfeit tickets, and demanded the police be called in
however, the police stopped the train from point U, arrested everyone and drove
them away in an unknown direction
the train travelling from point V was buried by boulders
the departure of the train from point W was delayed for an unspecified time
on the train travelling from point X, a young man couldn’t take his eyes off
the human in front of him: he was trying to decide – what is this?
a man or a woman? they began to talk, embraced, kissed, the train
arrived on time at its appointed spot and they parted ways
robbers attacked the train from point Y, disembarking the passengers,
burning the wagons
on the train departing point Z, a traveller was looking out the window
contemplating whether the word “his” is connected to the word “history”,
but that is for another time



woodlice

after Stasys Jonauskas

woodlice are peaceful, feeble beings, in Latin labelled “Oniscidae”,
but they don’ know what this word means, and Latin is Greek to them,
    nor do they hold diplomas or passports
and they don’t turn their heads when others call them know-nothings or refugees
especially because it’s hard to say where a woodlouse’s head ends and its body begins.

woodlice tend to avoid sunshine, preferring twilight or total darkness.
their feelings are ordinary, their lifestyle not so sly, they remember what they need to know
or write it down on their backs, using incomprehensible writing tools –
so we will never figure out what makes these melancholy underground historians unique.

woodlice once left the wet and rapacious world of crabs, moved to dry land
    and became vegans,
now they live in darkness, between mold and the old, feeding on dust, debris and greenery,
if you ask them how they’re doing, they say “great!” because in nature there is room for     everyone –
you just have to look a little bit, a tiny little bit, for your niche.

woodlice never force their opinions on others, never wrangle over tendencies in contemporary     art,
avoid discussing movements in the markets and politics, and they don’t bet on horses.
they’ve been around for hundreds of millions of years and have yet to lose at anything serious.
generally, woodlice get in no one’s way, remaining, for the most part, unseen.

no one gives them prizes or medals for living such a lifestyle, after all,
what would someone say? – for having won at nothing at all, we grant you this...
    yes, they are respected for the simple fact that they don’t bother anyone, deserving nothing.
no one likes an upstart, but the furtive don’t stick in anyone’s craw, attracting attention
    only from certain especially secret services.
so let’s decide for ourselves whether it’s worth living this way – like quiet, grey woodlice.

 

words

the prolonged words of autumn – quiet, gracefully descending
words – battered by wind, bending, rustling words
exchanged for falling words, big-mouthed words breaking
on one’s face, accurate and cold-blooded in their point of view,
words like icicles, growing soft, melting and spreading
those always cool words, cowering words, shivering words,
congealed words, words getting stuck in the mud, words
howling at night, those if you hear me words, jostling each other every day,
it’s nice to see you, how are you, thank you, bad,
dry words, like summer’s dust, motheaten words
like truth, allergic to dew, words
powdered, cherished, refreshing, spreadable, heady,
how do I look, empty, sweet, staining, sprayable, scenting,
ah, smelled, cut, shaved, plucked, combed, gosh,
how fine the weather is today, watched, displayed, modest, virtuous,
deaf and dumb, callous, firm, a little flabby,
expired, washed, laundered, constantly cleaned, wiped,
caressed, continuously re-filled, sown, scattered, words like
soot, winnowed, splashed, weeded, fertilized words, picked,
gathered, dried, boiled, baked, pompously plated
words, words swallowed at the table
all those equated words, words formed in ranks, those slavish, glueable,
bendable, costumed words
and those written, poured, over-filled words, going wrong, drunk,
if you’re at all concerned, smokable, sent, read,
murmuring, wrinkled, crumpled, vaccumed, torn, disposed of
words – those words, or maybe just shadows of words
they’re all boring, understood, abundant, obviously,
you should come more often, logically enough, how does one say this, pricey,
on sale, generously given, bitter, wherever you look, feebly
gathered, pestered, nourishing, see you later, words, word of know how
words
go to hell, in the mind, words,
those words, thrust, shoved, coarse, words, rough,
words, spattered, sticking words, careening, exploding
words, words cutting to heaven, clanking, creaking
winking words
those words of tattered dreams next to words of patched joy
those meadow words – for windy words
those watery words – for seaweed words, or words drowned
in dreams – for words fluttering in sorrow
those barking words, not riding words – ruminating
words, somewhat used words
those scooting words, not rotting words, moving
words – not muttering, thick words, one-off words,
slipping, polysemous, bony words, wrinkled
or pickled, holey words, even pale ones, words with cores,
porous, wanting, comfy words, even domesticating, intelligent
or batty words, biting words, dancing, playing
words, trampling words, flocking words, creating,
having, teaching words, even crawling, pummelled words,
barely walking, fatty words, acrid and plump,
slithering words, resting quickly, genuflecting
or imperious
words on picture slides – cloudy, words in letters – covered in flies
talking words, listening, proclaiming, commanding words
and forbidden, forbidding words, permitting words,
avoiding, insistent words, insulting, angry, waking words,
forcing, destroying, fateful words
all those captious, what are you coming to words, those intrusive
and adhesive words, those words, gentle and trembling, yearning
words, desiring, fainting, if you unerstand what
I’m trying to say words
and those hurrying, lodestar words, incessant words,
making off and banished, going greedily, coming,
arriving, returning words, vanishing and remaining words,
visiting words, decrepit, napping, undercut and raised up words
these, words
other, words
those, words
the words, the same words, those, so many, they’re flapping their wings,
they’re spreading, they’re knocking about, strewing the trees in the evening,
they caw, they tousle and make ready for bed
all of them have passed me, because I am myself today unhinged
alone
in love

 

Translated by Rimas Užgiris

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