The poet, translator and essayist Kęstutis Navakas (1964 ̶ 2020) was the aesthete of Lithuanian poetry, a dandy who didn’t believe in the boundary between life and art. He made his debut in 1988 with a collection of poems Krintantis turi sparnus (Wings On A Falling Man). Navakas grew up in Kaunas, which features in his work as his beloved city, and was heavily involved in the city’s cultural life. Alongside writing for the cultural press, at one point Navakas had a bookshop, which was one of the first private organisations in Kaunas to put on literary events. He also worked for television as a book reviewer, and translated a great deal of poetry from German and English.  

His own writing is marked by a very playful attitude towards language. Yet Navakas’s playfulness is of a serious kind – it’s a doctrine of art and life: the game, just like art, dismisses every sort of pragmatism and therefore manages to escape the banality and gloom of everyday life. Navakas writing is elegant, erotic, and full of joie de vivre, with slightly decadent overtones. For him, no word has a single fixed meaning; he associates freely, even phonetically, and frequently uses quotes and references to spice up his writing. ‘I am an adventurer,’ he once said in an interview, which perfectly characterises both his personality and his work. 

Navakas emerged as a mature visionary poet in his sixth and last collection of poems, net ne (Not Even, 2018) – playful and deep, serious, even tragic.


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Graphic Novels

Solomonas Teitelbaumas, Rise of Mephistopheles, 2006, canvas, oil. From the MO Museum collection.
Poems from the poetry book “Not Even”

scale: do-re-mi

through a sky cut with a musical staff
           cold rain water flows
covering our hands like chaff

quiet and at ease as if imagined
           as if it were us in the air
instead like nothing happened

the cold mysteriously seeps and spreads
           making a music of bones for you and me
we would like to rise but seem quite dead

holding a handful of laughter as yet
           along with this poem’s strophe
taught by the world long set

so we lie with faces raised high
           even as the world forgets us though
we continue to smile at the sky

we are made from sinful snow
           as if the past had no force or law
we sit with limpid silence in the soul

pretending the mind wasn’t just a fog
           and we weren’t stuck in coming to be
finding ourselves walking a mysterious bog

autumn still watches over us
           through clouds arrayed in rows
but we’re still here and that’s enough



the shadows grow out of the day and nature seems to tire
           with fine letters of rain falling on the fogged up window
we live together alone where everything fits in the choir
           maybe our road has given up the goal of a road

maybe we tired somewhere beyond the words we weren’t saying
           or the act we couldn’t take or the speech we shouldn’t utter
we continue not having become not having been silent and not seeming
           burned going until judgement without an intercessor

everything was as if by accident but what matters comes to pass
           shadows fall from around the corner and there’s a rabbit in the hat
nietzsche smiles from the wall through the offset nimbus of his moustache
           when everything has been tried you didn’t crack – you won’t crack

when the pencil graphite ends and there’s no way to draw the thrush
           i’ll be new to you each moment and that means i won’t stay lonely
wine will ripen in the fruits of elyseum not knowing we are flush
           i have in my glass blood and water while your’s holds milk and honey

and we won’t finish what’s not started and won’t find what’s not erased
           there will be books but only those who read them will understand
like shadows grown out of their place our years will be stuck in calendar space
           like a button ripped from a coat i’ll press the last letter in my hand

birds will knock on the window glass with claws turned crystal
           while our cerements are being sown beyond the wall
           and these too will long suffer us
and so eurydice dies from a glance as orpheus forgets his happiness
           oh du menschliches



somebody turned off the light in the room and
only then did i begin to see. all of childhood’s
wooden horses began to glow even the raspberries
eaten forty years ago released their aroma it was
raining melodically outside and lightning struck
seven kilometers away it was safe though and
looked like nothing at all would be it looked like
everything always would be and here then
somebody in the room turned off the light
and for the first time in my life i was amazed
because i could see in the dark. a copacetic dark

yet this is still the room in which i am
alone. lights out. for a long time



i don’t have anyone to go into battle with thought
the warrior and my armor is covered with dust
the rubies from my sword handle are falling out
i can’t appear in the field of battle like this i can fight
perfectly well few can match me nevertheless when
my armor is covered in dust and the rubies are falling out
i’m nervous. but there is no war anyway nowhere to go
it’s so good that there’s no war today. my page
will manage to clean my armor it’s just important for me
not to let on so i calmly go buying bread and vegetables
from the street vendors smiling to the girls and women
who have seen so much and i pass by unnoticed
at home i listen to my cricket and am calmer
than my cricket that’s my life i have to be calm
i have to not let on that i’m a warrior i have to be gentle
and considerate to all in my path if tomorrow
there is war my armor will shine and i’ll think
back to what the buddha once said:
if you managed to come into this world
you’ll know how to leave it as well


the dark

it’s right beside you just close your eyes. stop looking
at the limoge porcelain vase or at the knife lying on
the secretaire. don’t give in to the illusion that what
you see is truly real and important. close your eyes.
remain in the world of sound and smell for here
the flowers will bloom the birds roost and your senses
won’t be wronged it’s just that you won’t see how
a person walks by nor a bicyclist rides on
nor what is written in books. but you have seen
all of that. close your eyes. this action is
la petite mort and all the dead have closed their eyes
they don’t see the knife lying on the secretaire they
are blind like a submarine submerging nevertheless
with your eyes closed your brain still throws images
onto the vault of your skull that show the film
of your life. in movies charles bronson
opens a door that might be his enemy’s using
a sudden movement of his hand as sudden as the act
of your eyes opening and the film of your life continues
from the fifty-second minute because you enter it
with a sudden movement at specifically that point
and you know an enemy may be waiting. the dark


archipiélago de colón

in the galapagos islands there are creatures knowing
how to slice bread and able to tear the sweet-flag
from the bread’s reverse side. in the galapagos islands
there are birds melting silver coins at night in tiny
bird crucibles there you can still see how at exactly
half past six trees grab soil full of weathered fragments
of shrines with their roots and toss balls of soil around.
in the galapagos islands clocks are as yet unknown so
time there will never stop at zeroes separated by four colons
there everything is other than here you find monuments
to two-syllable words and nights sometimes last
for the entire lifetime of an owl the traveller ibn al-khali
once sailed there with an andalusian galleon
and ancient scrolls bear witness to the fact that
he buried the pigs from the boat that sailors hadn’t
yet managed to eat. in the galapagos islands
the lotus blooms for only two seconds if someone
manages to see the flower then the animals bring
to that person’s house all the sweet-flags scraped from bread
only two people live in the galapagos islands: you and i


not even

and one day three tired travellers will come to visit you
one will bring gold the other myrhh and the third inscence
they’ll stand under your apple tree and you’ll understand the solstice
is ending the eleusian mysteries beginning the day lengthening. no.
not like that. one day you’ll tiredly tread to the neighboring yard
carrying the dust of your shoes and the people there won’t
have seen such dust and you’ll stand dreamily under the apple tree
showing them the dust. no. they won’t look. one day in the market
you’ll buy vegetables mackeral wine vinegar and sea salt that day
you’ll marinate the mackeral for a long time with cinammon using
a jewish recipe and everything will seem almost unbearably
beautiful and. no. it won’t. one day you’ll be standing by the window
and massive variegated sailboats will glide by with sails
of hemp and linen fiber raised high and you’ll understand
they sail here every day they just sail by and sink two
kilometers away they’re here but you don’t see them. no. they
sink. one day you’ll be reading a book and in the book it will
be written that. no. you don’t know how to read. and one day
she will come probably in rain under a lowering sky she’ll say
you very much you’ll say her too and that you even. no.


Translated by Rimas Uzgiris your social media marketing partner


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