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Aušra Kaziliūnaitė

Aušra Kaziliūnaitė (b.1987) is a poet.
She received a BA in history and an MA in religious studies from the Lithuanian Pedagogical University. Currently, she is pursuing her doctoral studies in philosophy at Vilnius University. She has published two collections of poetry: First Lithuanian Book (2007) and 20% Concentration Camp (2009).
For the former, she was awarded the Elena Mezginaitė Prize. Her third book, The Moon is a Pill, was published in 2014. Her fourth poetry book I am Crumbled Walls came out in 2016.
Aušra is one of the youngest members of the Lithuanian Writer’s Union.
She currently is on an internship in the University of Amsterdam, the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA).

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by Virginija Cibarauskė

Aušra Kaziliūnaitė, Mėnulis yra tabletė, Vilnius: Lietuvos rašytojų sąjungos leidykla, 2015, 116 p.

Menulis yra tablete 2Aušra Kaziliūnaitė (b. 1987) is a poet and a doctoral student at Vilnius University’s Faculty of Philosophy. She is one of the most prominent anti-traditionalist poets of her generation and deconstructs or ignores the forms and imagery of canonical lyrical poetry.  To describe her creative work, she resorts to the notions of the avant-garde, post-avant-garde, and postmodernism.

Her poetry is characterized by associative logic and its visual nature, irony and the grotesque, and an abundance of allusions and intertextual references. Her voice is strict and assertive, and her phrases are graceful—concise and laconic. She likes paradoxes. That make her poems resemble polysemantic riddles and puzzles that aim at reminding the reader that things and states exist which, on the one hand, are invisible to the everyday gaze, and on the other, cannot be named by conventional traditional poetic language.

Original expression, a leaning towards the shocking, and the aesthetics of horror and ugliness are not an end in themselves. The qualities of this poetry are closely connected with the ideas of social critique and a concept of creation close to that of the beatniks. Accordingly, the purpose of creation lies in inner liberation, in the actualization of information and experiences fixed in the subconscious. That is why brutality is “part of the sacred rage of creation”[1] for Kaziliūnaitė.

Among the poets of her own generation, the majority of whom maintain a position of indifference to social issues, Kaziliūnaitė distinguishes herself by her active public stance: she takes part in social actions and performances, speaks against discrimination, and supports the LGBT community. On the other hand, the ideas that she represents are not voiced in a straightforward manner: they hide in the structure and poetical imagery of her texts and in the registers of speaking which she chooses. For instance, a poem addresses not an individual subject but a group to which the speaker belongs, and the intimate dialogue of I–you is replaced by the relationship between we–we, or I–they. Kaziliūnaitė aims at the deconstruction and disassembly of traditional poetical forms and imagery, searching for untypical ways of expression, and at writing in a consciously untraditional manner.

Her first publications in the cultural press appeared in 2002. Even before the appearance of her first poetry collection she was spotted by critics and awarded literary prizes, including the Pranas Lembertas Prize in 2005 and the prize for the best debut in the almanac Poezijos pavasaris (Spring of Poetry) in 2006. Her first collection, with the somewhat ironic title Pirmoji lietuviška knyga (The First Lithuanian Book),[2] was published in 2007. The title of the book playfully suggests that Lithuanian writing begins not from Martynas Mažvydas’s Katekizmas (Catechism, 1547), but from Kaziliūnaitė’s first poetry collection.

And indeed, some critics admitted that her claim was legitimate. For example, writing under the pseudonym Castor&Pollux and being strongly inclined towards provocation, a book reviewer of the cultural weekly Šiaurės Atėnai (The Northern Athens) refers to her debut as “a poetic bomb.” The critic appreciated the irreproachable mastery of postmodernist aesthetics in which rich polyphonic melodies are transformed into noise.[3]

Kaziliūnaitė’s first book abounds in visual elements and avant-garde attempts to blur the boundary between the word, the graphic sign, and the image. Some of the poems are combinations of digits. Elsewhere, the author inserts pictures made by her own hand into written texts. She tries out various ways to graphically decompose the texts, which allow shapes of different objects in the poems to be manifested.

Her second book 20 proc. koncentracijos stovykla (20 Percent Concentration Camp),[4] which appeared two years later, made it to the shortlist of the twelve most creative books compiled by the literary scholars of the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore.  The title of the book is a reference to the Holocaust and asserts that the modern individual might still experience what the inmates of concentration camps had gone through, but only to some extent. Like the title of her first book, this one also sought to shock the reader and thus loosen established notions. This book marks the beginning of the quest for what is hiding under words; it is an agenda that is consistently actualized in the third book.

Kaziliūnaitė’s third poetry collection Mėnulis yra tabletė (The Moon is a Pill)[5] has attracted the most attention from critics and was awarded the Jurga Ivanauskaitė Prize for free, open, and daring creative work. The latest collection is based on doubt about something that is obvious: the mundane world, objects, and the corporeal identity.  Here the objects, people, and phenomena appear as complex and compound: within or beyond them, something else is hiding.  The purpose of writing is to take a look at and to show what is under the skin, under the goings on of daily life, under the surface—in other words, to dive into the depths of the self and of the world where sinister creatures are lurking and the mechanisms of horror and violence are hiding.

The stance of communication and conversation, of simply being or interacting with others, gains special significance. Seldom used in contemporary Lithuanian poetry, the form of address mes (we) gives Kaziliūnaitė’s poems the impression of a manifest quality that is intensified by laconic statement-like phrases and an imperative tone. Even the so-called love poems are somewhat strict and peremptory.

The axis of meaning in Kaziliūnaitė’s poems consists of an apparently paradoxical combination: they aim to surprise, shock, and show “the seamy side” on the one hand, and to communicate on the other. In general, the poetics of the paradox acquires a special significance in this collection: a poem is made of unexpected twists of meaning and a subsequent statement complicates yet does not negate the first one.  Frequent repetitions create an impression of circular movement, as if the speaker is trying to escape the predetermined framework of speaking and perception. Since paradoxes are unsolvable, the poem maintains its multiple perspectives—it is open to new readings and to new interpretations.

 

1. ‘Aušra Kaziliūnaitė: mane kuria kūryba’, Birutė Grašytė’s interview with Aušra Kaziliūnaitė, in Bernardinai.lt: http://www.bernardinai.lt/straipsnis/2014-11-16-ausra-kaziliunaite-mane-kuria-kuryba/124240

2. Pirmoji lietuviška knyga, Kaunas: Savaitraštis Nemunas, 2007.

3. Castor&Pollux, ‘Pirmoji pavykusi PK’, Šiaurės Atėnai, 20 October 2007. http://www.tekstai.lt/tekstai-apie-tekstus/455-castor-pollux-lietuviu-literaturos-kritika/4813-castor-pollux-pirmoji-pavykusi-pk-ausra-kaziliunaite-pirmoji-lietuviska-knyga.html

4. 20 proc. koncentracijos stovykla, Kaunas: Kitos knygos, 2009.

5. Mėnulis yra tabletė, Vilnius: LRS leidykla, 2014.

 

 

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