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Gintaras Bleizgys was born in 1975 in Druskininkai. In 1997, he graduated from Vilnius University with a bachelor’s degree in Lithuanian philology, and in 1999  with a master’s in literary theory. In 2007, Bleizgys graduated from the same university with a master’s degree in management and business administration. He worked as an editor of the monthly publication Metai, and during 1999–2001 was editor-in-chief of the weekly Literatūra ir menas. Bleizgys is currently the president of the Lithuanian PEN Center and a board member at the Lithuanian Writers’ Union. Bleizgys has published 14 books, ten of which are poetry collections, and has had his work translated into Polish, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, English, and Russian.

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Nerijus Cibulskas

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Nerijus Cibulskas

Translated by Diana Barnard

 

Ramune Brundzaite review 02Gintaras Bleizgys. Procesija. Slinktys, 2022

This spring, Slinktys Publishers released the poetry collection Procesija (Procession), the poet, essayist, and literary critic Gintaras Bleizgys’s fourteenth book. Although Bleizgys has tried out a number of literary genres and is a prolific and versatile author, his collection Procesija, published after a pause of several years, marks a new stage in his work.

In a time when we are gradually trying to recover from the dreariness of the pandemic that snatched our grasp of ordinary reality, when we live in a reality pervaded by the turmoil of a terrible war and chronic uncertainty, Bleizgys’s poetry speaks openly about getting used to being alone, of patiently domesticating the anesthetized state of isolation, and of hearing, in the rushing rhythm of everyday life, the beats of the metronome counting the finiteness of each being (“incapable // of understanding that everything is at its end,” p. 8). Life, on whose hump a person rides, leaps forward without respite, and carried by this uncontrollable beast, you willy-nilly begin to revive one of the most sensitive issues in your consciousness: “what is the end?” (p.7) A rose garden fertilized with horse manure hides and concentrates its life in the darkness of the soil; it feeds on that stinking substance and bursts forth in lush roses until mole crickets burrow into the flower gardens, destroying the living roots. The question “how many forms does a life have?” (p. 7) is answered by this miniature model of the battle of life described in the poem: life is multi-shaped and multifaceted, killing and revealing through such killing its undefeatable prosperity, which plunges into lethargy and rises again in a continual cycle. Vaguely internalizing the eternal rules of struggle, “experiencing transience ever more clearly / you become fearless” (p. 44). You cultivate this illusory fearlessness alone and only by your own efforts, and you have to attempt to answer “the most difficult questions / all alone in the world” (p. 77) because no one will do it for you.

In many of the poems in Procesija, Bleizgys turns to the security and support provided by creation, poetry, and verbalization of the world, which are sustainable only as long as the person creating and nurturing them is alive. Several poems are imbued with a kind of cold pessimism and uncomfortable doubt; there is a growing realization that writing poetry is sometimes just a construction of futile barricades, because “words are temporary” too, and they are just a restrictive “halter of the soul / that I’m trying to break through” (p.11). For example, the poem “To Laima Kreivytė” reflects on a walk in a copse of trees and the reading of her book Artumo aritmetika (Arithmetic of Closeness). However, through the creative experience of the other, one also reflects, consciously or unconsciously, on the situation of one’s own (non)creative process (“I remembered today after a long time / that I was once a poet / and that I had lost this gift” (p. 59). We can guess that this is a laconic reference to the crisis of non-writing, which often pulls the rug from under the feet of many a writer. And even if later, after the crisis, “you can choose // which side you prefer,” it soon transpires that “all sides are the same” and that while “some are tortured by poems / others are simply lucky” (p. 103). Writing is not a must. Maybe just being here and now, without illusions and poetic silliness, just living. Delicious, if somewhat bitter, is Bleizgys’s irony, which is sprinkled throughout the collection (“even if you could hear like a dog / you would still / be deaf” (p. 16). 

The jotted “poems / are a bridge / are a long / walk” (p. 22), when it is impossible to tell and guess how many lives you actually have (p. 28), and maybe the only one given is too remote from the one “that others would approve of” (p. 60). Banally speaking, eventually the human’s “path is like a moment” (p. 97), in which we attempt to fit as much of the meaning that is slipping away as possible. 

In “Sugrąžintoji poezija” (The Poetry Reclaimed), the first chapter of the collection, Bleizgys’s poems materialize in everyday life, which for each of us is as authentic as it is alike. Routine, the reiteration of its dictates and the resulting monotony, the familiar, close people and the objects that have their own places are in fact a shroud that covers an extraordinary mystery behind which the mundane is no longer theatrical and mechanical but rinsed out and pure, as multiform as life itself. 

Yet only sensitive poetic radars can capture the ephemeral quality of the everyday. In a recent interview, Bleizgys said that before Procesija, he had published a couple of books of fiction, while his poetry had been torpid. “I tried to summon it: I wrote simple, everyday poems, maybe even just sketches, phrases of all sorts. Then I tried to dress them in metaphors. I took my time,” he said. Daily life is changeable. It can be lighter and arouse wonder, but at times it can also be painfully crushing, creating restraining depressive moods, when it seems that you do not want anything and you need a babysitter because you can no longer deal with your own life anymore, because “in no way / you are able to stop the collapse of your own world” (p.63). I think that these lines nicely connect with those in “Demonų dvelksmas” (The Waft of Demons), the second chapter of the collection: “the angel grows a straitjacket / for you // so that you don’t break your mind / of which so little has been given” (p. 102–103). Here the usual attribute of the madhouse evolves into the means of a protective supernatural force, an armor that covers the severely limited core of the human self.

The poems in the second chapter of the book have a noticeable fluidity; they are intense and complex in their expression and form. Increasingly often, the poet switches from vers libre to rhyming as, it seems, the whole visible and experienced world around him seems to be falling into rhyme. The chapter opens with the poem “Su Arvydu Šliogeriu” (With Arvydas Šliogeris), which also contains the line that prompted the title of the collection: “the last procession of transience” (p. 70). Having arrived at this part of the book, the reader can feel that the poet has finally reached an important turning point: “my consciousness is humming and swinging” (p. 121). He dives impulsively, even recklessly, into the ever-intensifying flow of poetry and the gusts of contexts (“from baranauskas to marčėnas, / I say what I want to say” (p. 85). The spare and somewhat coarse passages of everyday life and domesticity are replaced by erratic Miltonic visions and phantasmagoric imagery, and the image of the inner demon begins to recur (“and yet it is too hard for me / this loneliness – the retreat of time / in the nakedness with demons and the sky / when the heart thrashes in the sheds of the universe / with boiling images of reality” (p. 111). In the same abovementioned interview, Bleizgys says that poetry “can drive you out of your mind’ and that you should ‘hold yourself back so you don’t get out of it.” However, when I was reading the chapter “The Waft of Demons,” it occurred to me more than once that the structure of the collection itself should have been reined in, because this chapter differs quite radically from the first one: it is like an independent book. So in the end, under the covers of Procesija, are two very different collections of poems, and I admit I remember the first one better – the one in which the poet attempts to reclaim poetry, to restore his ruptured connection with it, even though it is obvious that “what I’m going to write has been written a long time ago” (p. 104).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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