Lidija Šimkutė - bilingual poet, translator. B. Lithuania, arrived in Australia 1949 after 5 years in Germany post WWII. Worked as dietitian in hospitals. Extended Lithuanian studies in USA & Vilnius University. Published three poetry books in Lithuanian, twelve bilingual (incl. transl. into German, Polish & Japanese) and in literary journals / anthologies in Lithuania Australia, Argentina, Austria, Bulgaria, Georgia, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Spain, Japan, Scotland, Ukraine & others, incl. World Poetry (2008, 2010)

Turnrow’s Australian Contemporary Poetry (edit. John Kinsella) – 2014. Poetry used in modern dance, (choreog. G.Sederevičius, E.Cameron Dalman)  theatrical  & music /voice compositions (composers V. Juozapaitis, V. Germanavičius, Anita Hustas, R. Naujanyte-Bjelle,  (“Words Stutter”; Ben Lunn ( “Kiek Pasaulių” (How many worlds) string quartet performed in England and Scotland, won The Maxwell Geddes prize for New music in Scotland (2019). Translated into sixteen languages. Poetry read by author and used in Margery Smith’s compositions for voice and chamber orchestra at The Sydney Opera House - Utzon Recital Hall, world premiere of "White Shadows” / Hourglass ensemble and “Ocean Hum"/Grevillea ensemble at The Flute Tree, Sydney Oct,2015. L. Šimkutė represented Lithuania at the European Literature Festival; in Tokyo, on Zoom, 2020.   Šimkutė is included in  prof. J. A. Krikštopaitis  book “ Life truths of Eminent Individuals” (2016).

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Margery Smith, J. M. Coetzee and Lidija Šimkutė. Book launch, Adelaide, 2008.


Launch, South Australian Writers’ Centre, 5 December, 2008    (abridged)

J.M. Coetzee


It is a pleasure and a privilege to be here this evening, participating in the Australian launch of Lidija Šimkutė’s new book, Mintis ir uola / Thought and Rock.

The book is published in Lithuania and earlier this year there was a parallel launch in Vilnius. I speak of Lithuania as a far-off land. That may be true, geographically speaking; and the unhappy history of Lithuania in the twentieth century, when it was for a long while swallowed into the Soviet Union, though it has no ancestral links with Russia and Russian Orthodoxy.

We tend to forget that Lithuania was once a great power in northern Europe, that its strongest cultural links have been with Catholic Poland rather than with Russia, that among the great poets of the twentieth century two have had Lithuanian roots: Czeslaw Milosz and Tomas Venclova. The former wrote in Polish, whereas the latter, in Lithuanian.

 When we speak of Australia as a multicultural country, we usually mean that, though the dominant culture is Anglo, or nowadays Anglo-American, other cultures survive beside the dominant one, and are, even encouraged to stay alive –on the one hand the massive underlying presence of Aboriginal culture, on the other hand a wide range of settler cultures, European, Asian, and now even African.

Within its immigrant communities there have been individuals who have chosen to keep the intellectual culture of the old country alive in the new country, and in general to act as a bridge or interpreter between the old country and the new. It is among such people that I number Lidija Šimkutė. Lidija was born in Lithuania during the terrible years of World War II and spent much of her early childhood in DP (displaced person) camps in Germany. In 1949 she and her family arrived in Australia. Cut off from her native soil, she could easily have turned her back on her origins. Instead, as an adult, she chose to deepen her knowledge of Lithuanian language, literature and folklore, working through the Lithuanian Language Institute of Chicago, the city with the largest and most vigorous Lithuanian population outside Lithuania itself, as well as through Vilnius University.

Lidija’s first collection of poems came out in Lithuanian in 1978 (USA). Her first bilingual collection in Lithuanian/English came out in 2000 (Lithuania). Lidija has published bilingual editions in Lithuanian/English, Lithuanian/ German and in Lithuanian/Polish couplings. Individual poems have appeared in translation in no less than thirteen languages.

By profession Lidija has been a dietitian. Since her retirement she has tended to divide her time between Australia and Europe. She has made numerous personal appearances at international poetry festivals. Her poem sequences have been the inspiration for works by composers – among whom is Margery Smith, present with us tonight – and choreographers. Musicians have been drawn to her poetry, I would guess, because of its concision, because of the clarity of its imagery, because of the suggestiveness of its metaphors.

On the one hand Lidija brings us her Lithuanian poems in English translation. On the other hand, she takes back to Lithuania her translations of Australian writers, most notably David Malouf. Thus she acts as an intercessor and cultural ambassador in two directions.

We are honoured to have this distinguished international poet among us here in Adelaide, and to be present at the launch of her new book, Thought and Rock.

Thought and  Rock contains poems of remarkable purity, written in
a spirit of receptiveness to the world in which  the poetic insight
suddenly emerges  like a bird taking wing.

(Blurb to bilingual collection “Thought and Rock“ -Lithuanian Writers Union, Vilnius, 2008)                                                                      

NB. Up to 2020  six bilingual editions have been published in English/Japanese - Osaka, Japan.
All translated by Kōichi Yahushigawa.



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