While other Lithuanian poets during the post-war period were writing either political verses or lyrical, pastoral poems, Judita Vaičiūnaitė (1937 – 2001) was one of the first poets to focus on city life, drawing parallels between the myths of the past and present-day life, blending subjects from ancient Greek heroes to modern jazz musicians. She was “[a] poet of the city and the night, of storms and equally stormy emotions,” says Ilona Gražytė-Maziliauskienė, “a recreator of myths.” In this way, she was a precursor to more contemporary, postmodern poets, who would further break from the conventional nature-based, mythical poetry of the past.
Many of Vaičiūnaitė’s poems focused on the experience of a modern woman struggling against a patriarchal society, a single and educated working woman; a lover who speaks of her man as “the distant and desired other” instead of the other way around; or a mother who works to balance her domestic responsibilities with her desire to build a career outside the home.
Vaičiūnaitė has published some 20 collections of poetry. She was named the poet laureate of the “Poezijos Pavasaris” (Poetry Spring) international festival in 1978, and received the national award of the Gediminas Cross in 1997.
This is my favorite of her poems, so far:
On This Transparent Evening
Eight beats the towerclock beneath its white stone bark.
I run along Latako Street, so long and dark,
Along the blue ice of illusions towards your spark.
The benches in the park with rain will shine.
I’ll bring a burning cup – half-joy, half-wine,
And I’ll forget the blue ice is so thin, so fine.
You will be kidnapped by long-distance roaring trains,
But you will need me most – with a desire that pains.
The blue ice blinds – its sparkle never wanes.
My anguish is like seaweed; tangling, it stays whole.
And on the blue glass, vague,
The routes of ships arise before my sight.
I will not hold you…
An unheard-of spectrum floods your soul –
The water’s phosphorescent, strange,
I will not hold you…
Seaflowers will unfold…
Yet understand me, if I start to call
With letters never written,
With flashes sent from old
Long abandoned, long forgotten.
Those boundless blue expenses are created
For ship and bird…
And I must wait for my stray love
Without a word.