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I am Justina Žvirblytė, a 27-year-old poet and scientist-to-be. I grew up in a small village called Šilai, located in Panevėžys District, surrounded by trees, gardens, and birds. After high school graduation, I moved to Vilnius to study biophysics and, later, molecular biology. I had the opportunity to spend some time working in a lab in the US, the NASA Ames Research Center. Currently, I am a PhD student in biochemistry at the Institute of Biotechnology of the Life Sciences Center at Vilnius University. I am fascinated by the mechanistic nature of life, the vastness of space, and the everyday details of a simple life.

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Graphic Novels

by
Ramūnas Čičelis

 

 

Translated by Diana Barnard

 

Justina Zvirblyte Mikrosfera 02Justina Žvirblytė. Mikrosfera (Microsphere). Vilnius: Lietuvos rašytojų sąjungos leidykla, 2023.

Justina Žvirblytė's book Mikrosfera (Microsphere) is her debut collection of poems. The author is a doctoral student at the Institute of Biotechnology of Vilnius University. This fact would probably not be so important if it did not determine the foundations of Žvirblytė's creative thinking. Different young writers have won The First Book competition, which is organized annually by the Lithuanian Writers' Union. At the beginning of their journey, some writers (as is almost natural) start with self-expression of their inner world, while others try to surprise readers with interesting metaphors and other things. Žvirblytė comes to contemporary Lithuanian literature as a moderate avant-gardist who asserts in her poems not revolutionary intentions but rather a calm, undramatized relationship with both tangible reality and earlier cultural, literary, and social heritage, thus creating her own poetic space in which unexpected yet powerful poetic processes are taking place. It is obvious that Žvirblytė is familiar with the philosophy of scientific thinking, which asserts that the greatest changes only after careful consideration and weighing of a thought, a word, a line, and a poem. This consideration rests on theory and, at the same time, on the author's own life.

The collection Mikrosfera asserts adult truths: as a tradition of our parents' and grandparents' surroundings, behavior, and choices, the philosophy of existence of the second half of the twentieth century is still important to the modern human in Lithuania and beyond. With calm, Žvirblytė conveys the states of loneliness, melancholy, and even a certain Northern way of poetic speaking, which the Lithuanian émigré poets of the last century – for example, Alfonsas Nyka-Niliūnas – expressed in their work. A cold and scientifically poetic objective look at oneself and the world creates a reality that transcends the boundaries of artistic truth. The motifs of the poems emanate universals that paradoxically linger as signs of the author's individuality. The rendition of time and space affirms a usually extraordinary statement: the observed environment and its regularities do not depend on the observer that much; many aspects of both the author's and her readers' lives are simply predetermined. In fact, Mikrosfera lacks any traces of psychologism, which is so popular in contemporary mass literature. Žvirblytė is not concerned about herself. Recording and writing down what can be observed, seen, and thought is what matters more.

Žvirblytė's debut book bypasses yet another danger – the banality of looking back at life in the countryside or the reiteration of stereotypes and cliches.Mikrosfera contains allusions to her origins (she was born and grew up in northern Lithuania, in the small town of Šilai), to the natural environment, which had an impact on her childhood, and to the current social problems of Lithuania's provinces. Yet again, her poetic voice continues in the prose tradition of Romualdas Granauskas or Vidas Morkūnas but reveals an original treatment of her own past and present: Žvirblytė creates her own literariness not out of generalization but out of looking closely into the small details of the household and the environment through which life itself and not the person of the poems seems to speak. The reality is such that Žvirblytė, although calm, is alive to the condition of the world, nature, and humanity, now and in the future. In Mikrosfera, there are no Cassandrian prophecies or premonitions, no signs of catastrophism or global tragedies: the scientist's thought tends towards an unemotional analysis, which in her poetry transforms into a sense of moderation and the realization that we are not the first and probably will not be the last people on Earth.

The contemporary media world takes on such an expression in Mikrosfera that the reader is may think Žvirblytė is unbothered by the current overflow of information, the chaos created by public life, and numerous other realities, which in her poetry become important only in a few poems or in a few lines. We can presume that Žvirblytė is situated in a space of information awareness and is therefore reserved about the massive problems of the modern world that plague billions of people on our planet.

In Mikrosfera, Žvirblytė creates an effect that makes the reader realize that the person in the poems is a role model, revealing a thought and a feeling cleansed to the point of inner purity. There is no split of human consciousness, no inner conflict, no accentuated drama caused by capitalism or other social formations in Mikrosfera, because adequacy, integrity, and certainty of what is being thought prevail. Mediality is characteristic not of Žvirblytė's environment but of herself: being a scientist, she treats herself not as a mediator between the mystical and elemental creative inspiration and the audience but as a creator who can say, in poetic form, what she understands, as there are aspects of existence that are either impossible to express in any other way or it is too difficult to do that. The author's consciousness is neither a void nor an overflowing vessel – what is there just suffices to make the reader realize that the principles of macrostructures operate in microstructures. This decides the dramaturgy of the book: the gaze of the subject of the poems grows ever wider, thus creating both the impression of a poetic autobiography and conveying an almost physical growth of images, which adds tension not because of the drama of the intensifying poetic speech but because the intrigue thickens. Mikrosfera is an enticing book because of the question that preoccupies many readers: how will this story end? For the author, it is a collection of poems that raises the hope of a new life, reality, and world opening after its writing, and for the reader it is an almost aesthetically disinterested experience showing that it is possible to be and think in Žvirblytė's way. In the contemporary context with so many states of restlessness, Mikrosfera is a reminder that literature and poetry have not yet become mere self-help but are still capable of expanding the perception of reality and the amplitude of feelings, confirming that creative speech is one of the most powerful ways to overcome forgetfulness, limitation, and aimless distraction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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