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Vilnius Review is featuring a debut column. Every year we will present some young poets and prose writers who haven’t yet published books but who have been noted for their involvement in the literary scene, including periodicals, literary readings, and youth contests. For many of these authors, the magazine offers a first step into the foreign space because we will be publishing the first English translations of their work. Equally, this is an opportunity for the foreign reader, interested in the literatures of Lithuania and other small countries, to discover the names of these budding young writers and their opinions on writing as well as appreciate the lively pulse of literature in development.

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reflections on belonging

a palmers chronicle right bw

Graphic Novels

Stasys Eidrigevičius. Young Scientist, 1985. Paper, pastel, 50 x 65 cm. From the MO Museum collection.

Translated by Markas Aurelijus Piesinas

 

 

Photo by Ūla Kaulakytė

MŪZA O. SVETICKAITĖ

I was born in 2004 in Palanga, where I was raised. Currently I’m living in Vilnius, where I study philosophy at Vilnius University. I find myself fixed between the primordial sea and the network of urban structures, the solitude and the comfort of libraries and movie theaters, and attempts to disentangle the rippling relationship between cause and effect. Writing for me is an effort to discover fissures in myself and my environment that are not readily perceptible to the naked eye. Writing is a bridge between these extremes that cannot be connected otherwise.

 

 

resort 2022

a helicopter
covers the sea in white shields of metal
searching at night for a drowner

an old woman
selling spider plushies in a busy street
slumbers
with one eye open

tourists
dancing the lambada at a bar
rubbing their sweaty backs together
are acting
like they don’t remember the war

come midnight
the sea expels medusas onto the shore;
their slimy embrace envelops the city
and pulls it out of the field of time;

everyone freezes in place;

out from the waters the drowner emerges
carrying a guillotine on his shoulders
expecting scorn

but the resort
frozen on a popsicle stick
ignores him

doesn’t even look

the drowner winks at me
and we both sail away

 

 

lunch break

the infantry lies in the dusty line
a general in his prime rides a chariot
his gaze resembles the moonlight
and his fatigue is like mine
                                Donaldas Kajokas

1.

I transcribe my fatigue
into crosswalks
into the extending trolley bus pole
into the irregular lane partitioning opposite sides of the traffic
into the angular landscape, sketched by apartment buildings
into a stave that carries the rumbling cars, planes, and factories

my fatigue
weaves the scattered threads of the city
into a fabric

it’s sticky like a frog
and spreads like cancer;

it seeps into the joints of pedestrians
and turns them into cotton;

the people stop moving
and slip into slumber just as they stand;

I’m passing them by
like sculptures made of wax
I gaze into their open eyes as they sleep;

their pupils
flicker with the fairytales of their childhood

 

2.

in the distance
the traffic light beeps
and the bodies, afraid that they’ll break,
start to stretch

as the clock hits the thirteenth hour
once again the carriages turn into cars
stuck in traffic

their drivers
are squinting to see
the fairytale castle
on the horizon

a three-headed dragon emerges
from the factory’s chimney
and burns it all down

then turns into a fighter jet
and flies away

watching closely
that no flickers are left
no dream of a happy ending
in the eyes of the people

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Deividas Gailevičius

LILIJA RAKOVA

I was born in 1989 in Šiauliai. I majored in English philology from Vilnius University. I began writing as a teenager. I was raised in a difficult social environment, so for me literature has always been a form of therapy and survival. I’m very interested in magical realism and magical fairytales.

 

 

Alice Opens the Bag of Evil

I threw a date pit over my shoulder
the road shall decide
my caravan has wandered
into the land of the Marids

the hunchbacks were mauled by the lions
the slave-women carried away by the djinns
and the third of the loot
divvied up by the desert raiders

yet I am untouched
letting the road find me
I entered the city of silence
through its lifted gates
into the empty square of the palace

the stone guardians kneeling
by the entrance to the halls
and the marble houris lying
in beds of silk

behind a partition
in a gleam of pink
like a hologram
you were standing
turned into a black stone,
my King

you despised my faith
you hadn’t known
that girls like Ophelia
don’t pick golden apples
yet they spend the night holding
the moon stone between their thighs

you thought it would suffice if each night
a new sleepless fairy
hiding behind a translucent wing
would slink into your bed

you let the road surprise you
you believed before you saw
you conjured me
from the music that you dreamed
from a handful of sand

solitude begins
and ends with me
– you used to say
solitude begins
and ends in me,
my King

I think of the most horrible things
which means I’ve become
that which you did not expect
I untangle the knot of the winds
from your throat and you wake up
this is my tale –
the saddest you’ve ever heard

 

 

Aurora Lucida

I’ll be a shield for you
little girl from the picture
with a sling on your shoulder
as if you were wearing
an invisible cast on your arm

the photographer did
a bad job
the background’s poor
the contrast is off
between your white delicate feet
and the bright cement
the only thing in focus
is your frightened face

your mother
did a bad job
choosing a father
who killed at least two dogs
out of negligence

you carry their horror
half-dead
dragged with the car
by their leashes
you carry the pain
of all forsaken and abandoned beings
all your life

I’ll be your shield
a safe space for you
but I’ll be too late –
you’ll already be dead
your little spirit
stroking my head in the garden

I will arrive –
I will dig through the soil with my fingers
I’ll dredge up
your delicate bones
and I’ll wash them

I will create you anew
I’ll find your spirit
in the source
in the absolute
I’ll take you back
I’ll be your shield
and your sword

you carry the rage
of all trampled and crushed things
all your life
you’ll break into thousands of shards
creating from yourself
an immortal
and undefeatable army

 

 

 

 

  Photo from personal archive

 

Kšištofas Kšivecas

I was born in 1988 in Vilnius. I graduated from Vilnius Gediminas Technical University with a degree in construction engineering. My work has been published in several journals and magazines, including Literatūra ir menas and Šiaurės Atėnai. I’ve translated for the publishing houses Nieko rimto, Tyto alba, and Eugrimas. I also work with an international company that offers translating services.

 

 

cave

the cardiologist found
a strange growth in my heart

a cave in my chest
a monk in that cave

he’s doing a crossword
four letters the third letter is v

get rid of the monk
give me a dog’s heart

so I can celebrate the moment
they let me out of the cage

and completely forget
whose hand locked me in there

 

 

creator

he created for six days
and rested on the seventh

he was so tired
he opened a bottle of beer

and fell on the sofa
put his legs on the table

and that’s how he came up with the idea of rest
that doesn’t need thought

that’s how Friends, The Office
and Santa Barbara were made

but he took a loss
here because

ill-meaning angels
in Los Angeles

were already filming
the first episode of Lucifer

 

 

dilemmas

on the one hand

I don’t want kids
because if I had kids

I couldn’t take hitchhikers
on the weekends

on the other hand

I want my kids
to remember me

as the guy who bought coffee
for a drunk stranger

and who gave a lift
to a killer on the road

I want my kids to never forget
to leave some space

for my inner
hitchhiker

so that when I’m old
I can raise my fading thumb

and leave them in a place
where fellow travelers are easy to find

 

 

 

 

Questionnaire

What prompted you to write your first piece and publish your work for the first time?

Mūza: I wrote my first texts when I was a child inspired by nature. Writing became a conscious decision when I began to capture important details. I feel the urge to share them with others, which is what prompted me to publish my poetry.
Lilija: For writing my first text, and for the discovery of writing as a form of therapy, I’m thankful to my best friend in school, whose idea back when we were teenagers was to write a short Halloween story about each other’s romantic adventures. Later on, my writer friends encouraged me to publish my poetry.
Kšištofas: I wrote my first poems as a teenager. Back then I was mostly influenced by music, nature, and relationships. I published my texts for the first time in the Niša column of Bernardinai.lt, which was curated by the poet Antanas Šimkus. I was prompted by the wish to show my work to others.

 

How much influence do you draw from the Lithuanian literary tradition?

Mūza: I consider myself a part of the literary tradition. The influence is clear, from every read book to the mere fact of existing within the environment of Lithuanian literature and culture. But I’m equally influenced by cinema, music, philosophy, and foreign writers.
Lilija: I’m not sure one can avoid being influenced by the literary tradition, though I don’t seem to have inherited either pastoral lyricism or a contemplation of cities. I feel that my strongest influence has been contemporary Lithuanian poetry.
Kšištofas: A few years ago, I wrote in rhyme, which I believe was the spiritual influence of Henrikas Radauskas. I dropped the rhyme and embraced free verse, which was influenced by the Literary Sprint readings and the people who participated there.

 

Do you find it important to belong to a community of writers?

Mūza: I find writing to be a solitary process, so the community as a source of energy, circulating ideas, and mutual understanding is very important to me. But I find it more important to belong to a community of artists in the most general sense, without singling out the writers.
Lilija:I consider myself on the margins of the writing community, but I have learned a lot from my editors and the people I know personally. So, yes, I find it very important.
Kšištofas: Support and constructive criticism are important. The Lithuanian literary community seems quite restricted and fractured, so I rely on personal connections.

 

In your opinion, what place does literature hold in today’s culture, which is dominated by imagery and visual media?

Mūza: I don’t agree that in today’s culture the image has pushed out the text. The visuality of our epoch should not be reduced to pictures on screens or perceived images. Rather it is a particular way to think and understand the world, which together with literature coinhabits culture.
Lilija: I think literature is a very visual medium, not unlike painting, because we use it conjure up images with the help of words. I also think that the prominence of technology and visuality in social media only adds to the popularity and dissemination of literature.
Kšištofas: Literature is important. For me, at least, any work of a wordsmith is more powerful than a reel on social media. Films are different; they elevate a stronger emotional response, but literature stays with me longer.

 

Name one favorite, currently active foreign author:

Mūza: Bruno K. Öijer.
Lilija: I’m in love with Nick Cave’s work!
Kšištofas: The works of Mark Manson have been helpful guides in self-growth and reflection. I’ve translated some of his works for the Christian journal Kelionė.

 

Do you see yourself with a career in literature in the future? Would it be enough to sustain you financially?

Mūza: I hope that literary work will remain significant in my life in one way or another. But my writing process is very intuitive, ambivalent, spontaneous. So I can’t imagine applying to it the framed approach of work.
Lilija: Of course, because I consider translation or editing to be a part of the literary process as well.
Kšištofas: Writing, translating, editing is already a source of income for me, but I would rather prefer to rely on my creative work or business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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