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Talking of Martinaitis

Posted 24th November 2011

Tony Ward and Laima Vince
Tony Ward and Laima Vince

We were so disappointed to hear that the great Lithuanian poet Marcelijus Martinaintis was too ill to travel over to England last month to read his poems as we had arranged. But the Lithuanian embassy were keen for us to keep to arrangements and reading dates. We had Laima Vince, his wonderfully articulate and entertaining translator, joining us for the reading tour, so we decided to turn the events into a conversation between Tony and Laima. We were at the International Antony Burgess Foundation in Manchester and then Lancaster Litfest on the 25th/26th October

We were also lucky enough to have Daiva Parulskiene, the Lithuanian cultural attache, on hand to read some of Martinaitis's poems in the Lithuanian original.

But the star of the show was Laima. She was a literature student of Martinaitis, and so knew him well. Her ability to condense some of the events of 199 - the enormous rallies Martinaitis attended and read at and the context in which they were held was fascinating. And so moving to consider how politically charged and urgent poetry was in shaping the country's cultural and social landscape. She also spoke of how his rural dialect would have enabled his earlier poems to slip through the Soviet censor so allowing readers outside the occupied regime to understand the frustrated fury of Lithuanian farmers at occupying forces.

All this he managed with so much humour, a crazy surreal logic that eats away at itself, mocking the rules and regulations that are put in place originally for 'logical' reasons. A great gift to the world. And wonderful to introduce his work, his passion, to new readers, who were clearly so engaged by his story and work. Maybe next time he'll be able to join us. Meanwhile, we wish him a speedy recovery.