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ANTANAS JONYNAS

ANTANAS JONYNAS

Lituania, 1953

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I would circle the lake in whose center
the tired sun of the millennium plunged

where twelve frost-riven brooklets
shine as silver spokes all night

short-legged lizards
dance around a sleeping stone
short legged lizards
dance around an azure stone

rat-a-tat-tat beats the Creator’s drum
rat-a-tat-tat beats the Lord’s drum

rat-a-tat-tat beats the drum of the Judge
rat-a-tat-tat beats the Guardian’s drum

I fly like a swallow
clay in my mouth
I fly like a swallow
clay in my mouth

Translated by Kerry Shawn Keys

*

A thousand years later the sun
plunged into the middle of the lake
where I circle
its twelve frigid rivers
shining as silver spokes in the night

stumpy lizards
leap around the sleeping stone
stump-legged lizards
leap around the blue stone

drumbeat the Creator
drumbeat the Lord

drumbeat the Judge
drumbeat the Guardian

I fly like a swallow
clay in my mouth
I fly like a swallow
clay in my mouth

Translated by Craig Czury

*

In The Well

Where evening mist musses
her hair at the bend of the river
a woman counts train cars
she hasn’t ridden for ages
grieves the grave-digger’s soul
hollowed-out body of the dead
as the startling microcosm of a star
shoots across its corrugated tin roof

life is full of what’s real
like a bucket of snags and slops
Charon peers up out of the well
with his beady swindler’s eyes
“I’m tired”
his voice wavering from the depths
jolts the grave-digger to tears
feeling sorry for himself

English versions by Craig Czury

*

the week lasted only a week
then ended at once

the empire a thousand years
has been oozing from
the throat of a clock

at the table
shucking oysters with a knife
the bishop dropped dead

wind rustles the curtain
the landscape sweet and still

aroma of withered blossoms
gendarmes arrested at the border

the army cut through the city
leaving a trail of whores in the dust

the week lasted only a week
according to the daily report

when ceasar outlawed time
flowers kept their shape

autumn gold in the library
a girl puts the tea kettle on

Translated by Craig Czury


*

Fire

I tear the canvas frames to pieces
shred splinter
heave them into the fireplace
just to be open
to prepare myself for you
as in prayer
have I the strength
don’t ask
the flame breathes what's not spoken
while outside the throaty cries of dusk
this darkening window
not looking at anything
just staring
as in prayer
do I have the strength to prepare myself for you
the walls redden and furniture red
like ice in my blood
what terrible passion grips
one small goblet of hope
breaking it
just to feel open
and ask for nothing

Translated by Craig Czury

*

The River Flows Below

 

On the road wrinkled by time
muddy steps echo at night
in the moon’s reflections in the mirror gleam
the gate’s crumbling red bricks

the lion sleeps in the dark
slowly down the bank
a disheveled pair of lovers descends
the river polishes stones as if white bones
only curtain eyelashes can be seen through spectacle windows

work is finished and the holiday’s begun
the drunken watchman beats his wife
a cigarette flicked from a balcony traces
an arc
the half-cellar’s lamp goes out
the sound of cats’ children’s and women’s moanings
the distant drone of an intercity train
an old man reads the paper with the door left ajar
the lion sleeps in the dark
the middle of night and July

Translated by Jonas Zdanys


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Antanas Jonynas (born 1953) is a poet and translator. He studied Lithuanian philology at Vilnius University. In the period between 1976 and 1993, he worked as an editor in the Vaga publishing house; in 1993-1995, headed the Cultural Office at the TV station Baltic TV (Vilnius). Since 1995, Jonynas has been a freelance translator. His first texts were published in 1973. Since 1977, Jonynas has published numerous poetry books, poetry for children, satires and critical articles. A play for children Circus is Circus has been included on the repertoire of the Vilnius Puppet Theatre Lėlė since 1982. The works by Jonynas have been translated into English, German, French, Russian, Swedish, Norwegian, Polish, Slovenian, Estonian, Latvian, Georgian, and other languages. Jonynas translates books, mostly poetry, from Russian, Latvian and German (the authors include Rilke, Schwitters, Bobrowski, etc.). His best known work is the translation of Goethe's Faust (1999). In 1978, Jonynas was awarded the Gėlė Prize for the best poetry debut. The prize was followed by literary award for the best Young Author (1984) and the literary prize of the Writers' Union for the best book of the year. His poetry book Night Train was nominated for the Lithuanian State Prize in 1993. Other awards include the Jotvingiai Prize for the best poetry book of the year (the collection of love poems Waterfall under the Ice in 1997). Jonynas is a member of the Lithuanian Writers' Union and the Lithuanian PEN Centre. The poet lives in Vilnius. 

Última actualización: 28/06/2018