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Nijolė Daujotytė was born in Žemaitija in 1963. She attended Varnių secondary school and stidiens Lithuanian language and literature at Vilnius University. She has published three collections of poetry, Same Aged Plants (2003), Through the Leaves (2009) and A Bold Line (2021). Her first book was awarded the Zigmas Gėlė Prize. She works at a publishing house.

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reflections on belonging

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Graphic Novels

Lina Buividavičiūtė

by
Lina Buividavičiūtė

Translated by Markas Aurelijus Piesinas

 

Valdas Papievis Echo review 02Nijolė Daujotytė, Aiški linija. - V.: Odilė, 2021

Aiški linija (A Bold Line) is the third poetry book by Nijolė Daujotytė. Her first poetry collection Vienmečiai augalai, published in 2003, earned her the Zigmas Gėlės literary prize, which is awarded to the best poetry debut of the year.

In her third book, Daujotytė maintains and further develops her minimalist and subtle tone. The book’s title reflects the fundamental boundaries that the poetic subject reflects upon in the poems—like those between hope and despair or suffering and bliss. The poems are bold accounts of discrepancy, disappointment, loss, and wisdom that comes from experience, but even the latter is never decisive or permanent: “What appeared / like an opening void / was really a / sinkhole” (“I became attached,” p. 9).

As the poems attempt to capture and clarify the fundamental aspects of existence, the author’s minimal yet expressive style, unique imagery, and approach allow her to do so in an original way. A recurring aspect in Daujotytė’s poetry is the discussion of time and memory, and how they carry away from us the people we have met and the experiences we have felt. But by means of surprising structural interpretation, these discussions reach surprising conclusions (“I’d like this picture”). Existence, like a watercolor, consistently pours and shapes new forms for itself into semblances of unexpected objects (“Watercolor”). Although the fragility of existence and the sensation of loss are significant themes (“When I am gone”), the poetic subject is not trapped in a bubble of gloom and self-pity—the author is concerned with the historical and social context, while some poems emphasize the importance of letting go, retreat, and emancipation (“Flight”).

Daujotytė’s poems also speak about the parent-child relationship by means of subjective situations that resonate on a universal level: a mother waiting for her daughter to return home from her studies; a daughter adopting her mother’s experiences, while also experiencing her own calling as she writes a poem that her mother “doesn’t like at all”; a mother that wants her daughter to step over the boundaries of locality and exchange her comfortable childhood home in favor of the opportunities presented by the big city. The poems suggest that the roots still nourish the tree; thus, the familiar Other is a way for the subject to expose themselves to complex, fringe experiences—this is seen in poems “Wool and Silk” and “Neighbors,” which touch upon the theme of the Holocaust and juxtapose it with childhood memories. “Neighbors” details how the subject’s father decides to not attend the funeral of a man known as “zakarauskis,” as he remembers how that man used to pull shoes from the feet of murdered Jews.

Daujotytė delves into social topics and uses cultural-historical intertextuality in “Česiukas the Flower Child,” which, by means of a singular tragic fate, shows how bad times can break good people. Similar echoes of tragedy and history are found in “Let it always be,” where “for homeland’s sake the poet flees into the woods”: “the father is dead / from torture / the wife loses her sanity / while a secret lover / with an infant in her arms” (p. 54). But we see glimpses of joie de vivre even in darkness, pillaged from the entryways of death (“Paraphrase,” “Signs”).

Another important aspect of Daujotytė’s poetry is the imagery of nature and its complicated relationship with civilization: “Lion’s teeth / bishop’s weeds / and lilacs / sprouting through the slits / it is but / here’s only a crossbar / a new private estate” (“Fence,” p. 59). I see a connection here with a passage by Lithuanian philosopher Arvydas Šliogeris (who Daujotytė brings up in another of her poems) on the feeble human attempts to control alterity and that which can be described as nature’s perfect chaos: “For this reason humans build a wall that protects them not only from chaos, but also from a second alterity—nature. This wall that humans have built is precisely culture. [...] Here we see the strangest and most mysterious trait of culture, which we will call the illusion of panhominism. It is an inclination, found in any human cultural symbol, to mask, at first sight, the very basic point that culture is but a surface of symbolic meanings, under which the alterity of nature stretches, never made cultural and thus never made human, rooted in the primeval abyss of chaos” (The Silence of Transcendence, p. 471). The general tone of Daujotytė’s book resonates with a similar belief—her poetry is organic, succinct, and intertextually sparing. The poetic effort of A Bold Line is frugal in expression but vast in its reach, leaving the reader with much to consider.

I conclude with Daujotytė’s own words on how poetry happens. Perhaps it testifies to how A Bold Line came to be, or it reflects an attempt to look and listen into that primeval abyss, where some deeper truth about aesthetic meaning is contained within the primitive clamor of nature: “a stress on silence / a horse up the hill / a sigh of the sea / the quivering of air / is a poem” (“Quivering,” p. 18).

 

 

 

 

 

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