Marcelijus Martinaitis is the author of fifteen collections of poetry, five collections of essays and a series of three memoirs. In 1998 he was the recipient of the Lithuanian National Award in Literature, the highest honour bestowed upon a Lithuanian writer. Martinaitis was born in 1936 in the village of Paserbentis in geographically and culturally isolated Western Lithuania. He graduated from Vilnius University in 1964 with a degree in Lithuanian Literature. For more than a decade, he worked as a journalist and editor. From 1980 onwards he taught ethnography, literature, and poetry workshops at Vilnius University. He retired in 2002.
Martinaitis's work has been translated into English, Estonian, French, Norwegian, Russian, Swedish, and Ukrainian. In addition to his work as a poet, essayist, and educator, Martinaitis is highly respected in Lithuania as a social activist and one of the first members of the Lithuanian grassroots political movement Sajūdis. During the late eighties and early nineties, Martinaitis actively participated in Lithuania's struggle to regain independence from the Soviet Union. In 1989 he was elected into the Supreme Soviet and travelled to Moscow to argue Lithuania's cause as part of S¹jûdis's strategy to work within the Soviet system of governance towards the goal of declaring Lithuania's sovereignty.