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Greta Ambrazaitė was born in 1993. She studied Lithuanian Philology and Spanish language in Vilnius University and gained the bachelor‘s degree in Lithuanian Philology. She has worked as a Lithuanian language teacher, a seller-consultant, a librarian. Since 2018 she has been studying the Master of Literary Anthropology and Culture in Vilnius University. The author won the First Book competition in 2018 with her poetry book Fragile Things, the book was awarded the Young Yotvingian Prize as a best young poet’s book, published in two years, and was included in the list of top five most outstanding Lithuanian poetry books of 2018.

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Greta Ambrazaitė “Trapūs daiktai” (Fragile Things): poems – Vilnius: Lithuanian Writers' Union Publishing House, 2018.

In recent years, Greta Ambrazaitė’s work has been growing stronger, more varied, and more surprising. Increasingly, poets come to prominence not through the pages of cultural periodicals (for a long time, they were the main scene for debuts), but through social media or poetry slams. They reveal that poetry is a flexible way to communicate that combines performativity and a social message. Also, the opportunities for debuting poetry have expanded: e-books are no longer looked down on, and the question about whether the physical body of the book is crucial for being a writer alters readers’ perspectives.

Undoubtedly, the literary world still receives newcomers who attempt to grasp the principles of long-standing recognition, to unravel the identity of Lithuanian ars poetica. In this case, Ambrazaitė’s debut can be considered classic and includes publications in the cultural media, the First Book competition1, and readings at festivals. However, her poetry collection Trapūs daiktai (Fragile Things) had barely appeared and immediately made it into the Best Poetry Book of the Year competition, and she also received the Young Yotvingian Prize. This prize is given by poets to poets, and in a way ordains newcomers into the poets’ tribe. Recognition of such type is valuable for young verse-makers. Although Ambrazaitė’s poetry is not raucous, and her poetry cannot be called particularly unexpected or rebellious, the quality of her work leaves a fine impression.

It would be appropriate to begin looking for the character of Ambrazaitė’s creative work in her musical activity. Her lo-fi music “kog leval”2 does not seek an ideal quality and is a solo project. It is a fusion of gloomy, imperfectly recorded words and sounds that proves memorable due to the authentic performance style and the captured atmosphere. Ambrazaitė is not making music for a large stage; she is focused on the creative chamber process, while her poetry is looking for an engaged reader sensitive to nuance.

Trapūs daiktai is also dominated by the atmospheric descriptions of a personal inner state that convey the pulse of the emotional spleen and transports the reader into the orbit of youthful experiences. It is held by two pillars characteristic to classic poetry—desire and the feeling of temporality. It doesn’t seem to be anything new to write about these subjects in poetry, but the combination of desire and temporality in Ambrazaitė’s work provokes a paradoxical impression of beauty born out of destruction, of a desire to experience authentic life, and to come closer to the essence of things which are both perceived through pain. The line “soon we’ll exit this fragility” from her poem “22:45,” which appears in Vilnius Review, could also be used to describe the blood group of her other poems. These words contain quite a few existential meanings: the need for closeness (I has now become plural), the attempt to capture impermanence, curiosity, and especially pivotal for her creative work, distantiation from “limitless construction.” In her poems, these are usually connected by the distinct symbolism of tension (most often it is an invisible front, demarcation lines, trenches) that is cultivated until the signs of an inflagration—ashes, cracking, destruction—are revealed. What is unexpected is that, when talking about something sensitive, the poet chooses a harsh, militaristic image system, which is often used by Lithuanian poets of the older generations, usually to create a background which then highlights how the collective entity is going through significant suffering and enduring it. Ambrazaitė’s narrator doesn’t designate any heroic role as such state corresponds to the everyday condition. This feature is one of the strongest of her poetry—once the tension is “reified” and the context of threat created, the reality is exchanged for the imaginary world; these modes are being interchanged continuously in order to protect personal values and individuality. We can observe the similarly translated tension in many of her poems dealing with other themes (relationships, position in society, or those related to the public perception of a young person).

By giving her collection the title Trapūs daiktai, Ambrazaitė predicts an extraordinary discordance between the outer world and the exciting inner experience. It could be said that there is a quest for a conflict in her poetry (it may be the absurd or even the passage of time); however, the “pearl” is not only in the feeling but in how it is delivered. In this shape, the stylistics of expressionism are characteristic to her poetry. Usually, expressionists are expected to deliver a drastically deformed image of reality, a narrative able to, in an atypical way, express not so much the essence of a phenomenon but the way it is (Munch’s The Scream is a perfect example). It is a staged description of psychological nature for which inner experiences and emotions are necessary elements, a mediation between language and experience. In her poetry, Ambrazaitė, interested in inner states, tends to stage a gentle version of expressionism. Trapūs daiktai intrigues with its elegant darkness, dreamy imagery and cinematographic descriptions of states. In the majority of her texts, the inner state dramatically envelopes itself in words, grows a layer of “the deadly circuit of the horizon”, “crystal scaffolds” or “ballet mecanique”. Nonetheless, underneath such expressive monumentality, there is classic contraposition between the metallically “cold,” mechanical existence and individual emotional experience, one of the main pillars of which remains culture. Because of that, it seems that for Ambrazaitė, writing is not only a space for self-examination but also of a protective aesthetic, while the abstract, threatening, existentially “charged” context she creates is more of a condition for understanding her own authenticity. Her visions are exceptionally humane, aesthetic, and homogenous.

In Ambrazaitė’s poetry, expressionism is characterized not only by dark tones but is also formed through hodology—many of her poems appear to be drawn with coordinates. In my opinion, the path motif in her poetry is a felicitous condition for creating poetic images and a powerful method of communication. When reading her texts, it is not enough to recognize some coordinates as indicating the topographic map of Vilnius (because we can identify the Cafe de Paris or the Žvėrynas quarter). More important are those that reflect the disquiet journey of the soul and which seek to reveal what it means to follow emotion like a road. That is why Ambrazaitė’s poetry is not mathematical. It doesn’t seek to be a wise pathfinder but reflects the process, attempts to understand the world independently. That, in my opinion, is a complex symptom of good poetry which is precisely something worth experiencing when reading Trapūs daiktai.

 

1. A project for encouraging new writers with one of the longest traditions in Lithuania; once per year, a committee of recognised authors selects the best work out of anonymously submitted manuscripts.
2. You can listen to Greta Ambrazaitė’s voice here: https://soundcloud.com/kog-leval

Translated by Julija Gulbinovič

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