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Laima Kreivytė (b. 1972) is interested in the interaction of text and image and often works as an exhibition curator. She has published the poetry book Sappho’s Purgatorial Library (Sapfo skai[s]tykla) and compiled books about the artist Marija Teresė Rožanskaitė and the painter Kęstutis Zapkus. She curates poetic performances and participates in Coolturistes artist group exhibitions. Laima Kreivytė has translated the poetry of Adrienne Rich, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath and Elizabeth Bishop.

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by Virginija Cibarauskė

 

Laima Kreivyte review 02Laima Kreivytė (g. 1972 m.) is a unique figure in the world of Lithuanian poetry. And that's not just because of her surname, which, combining kreivas (crooked, bent) and reivas (rave), seems to hint at the many meanings to be found in poetry. First of all, unlike many other Lithuanian poets, Kreivytė is not a philologist. She completed her studies at the Vilnius Art Academy in 1995 and currently works there as a professor. She also curates exhibitions. Therefore, the annotations of her first book, Sapfo skai(s)tykla, published in 2013—mentions transgression—not just in the structure of her texts, but in the curiosity of her presence in the cultural field.

Kreivytė is also unique because her first book was published very late. In Lithuanian poetry, early debuts are common, with the average somewhere around 25 years of age. I believe that this trend is linked to the fact that the status of the poet in Lithuania is still a prestigious one, despite its devaluation over the past few decades. In the meantime, Kreivytė, who debuted in the cultural press in 1996, immediately became a part of the literary field. For example, the poet is mentioned in Jurgis Kunčinas's novel Blanchisserie, arba Žvėrynas-Užupis (1997), an example of the roman à clef genre. Kunčinas's narrator complains that his beloved grew distant after beginning to study poetry with an “art critic witch.”

The name Sapfo skai(s)tyklos lays out some important guidelines for Kreivytė's poetry. There is postmodern playfulness hidden in her language that seems to effortlessly unveil new meanings in the consonances she creates. They can be simultaneously ironic and honest because when it comes to Kreivytė's subject matter, language and culture, in a broader sense, become her natural space, rather than just tools. Therefore, it takes only one letter for skaitykla (a reading room) to become skaistykla (purgatory). The latter is associated with sapphic and confessional lyrical codes. What's also important is that Kreivytė's confessions aren't direct—they creep out through different discourses, contexts, higher and lower styles, lyrical and ironic registers, art, the interaction between literary intertextuality and biographical references, and poetic dialogs. This playfully lyrical strategy plays out in the poem of the same name, in which books become at once metaphors and metonymies for women awaiting their loved ones—“rubbing side by side,” “friends flock according to height / sometimes by color / and while some select societies / others sidle up to just anyone / the favorites are fondled / caressed and carried / [...] while others patiently wait / for the hostess / who will never come.”

Her latest poems, published in cultural press publications, feature less playfulness and lyricism. Instead, they exhibit a need for confession without the cover of cultural contexts. The poem most representative of this idea is artumo aritmetika, which weighs solitude as a natural and authentic state—to be “solitary” means at once to be separated and to be unique. “My life is one —and I am one, / however much I might like you.”

 

 

 

 

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