Tomas Venclova, a Lithuanian poet, scholar and author, has reached 75 years. During the cold war he emigrated to the United States, where he resides until now and where he is lecturing in Yale University. He is an author of many scientific and poetry books, the latest of them being on slavonistic studies.
With the start of Lithuanian independence and after a bloody 13 January 1991, he together with his close friends, both awarded Nobel price for works in literature, published a short note in New York Times defending Lithuanian self-determination to end fifty years of soviet occupation and condemned an attack on Lithuanian people by soviet tanks. The note follows:
“Poets for Lithuania
We are three poets, friends, representing three languages: Lithuanian, Russian and Polish. We call upon the world community – our fellow writers and all people of conscience – to raise its voice in protest against the inhuman Soviet assault on the people of Lithuania. The events of the last days remind us bitterly of the worst excesses of the Soviet state.
Thomas Venclova, Joseph Brodsky, Czeslaw Milosz
Published in New York Times, on 15 January 1991.”
On this occasion it is also worth remembering a dedication to the poet by the poet, Joseph Brodsky. This reminds us of the city Vilnius with its own personal style and baroque architecture untouched by changes in regimes, ideologies, armies and generals.
Below is an introduction. The research of a whole poem can be found there.
Dedicated to Tomas Venclova
A modest little country by the sea.
It has its snow, an airport, telephones,
its Jews. A tyrant’s brownstone villa.
A statue of a bard is there as well,
who once compared his country to his girlfriend.
The simile displayed, if not good taste,
sound geography: for the southerners
make Saturday the day to go up north,
from whence, a little drunk, on foot,
they have been known to stay into the West-
a good theme for a sketch. Here distances
are well designed to suit hermaphrodites.
Noonday in springtime. Puddles, banked-up clouds,
stout, countless angels on the gables
of countless churches. Here a man
becomes a victim of a jostling crowd,
or a detail of the homemade baroque.”
The same city of Vilnius helped another Noble poet Czeslaw Milosz to meet Tomas Venclova in their spiritual dialogue on the city of different ages, of a common history reaching to its boundaries of passing centuries, with a taste of a nostalgia of an emigree. That spirit was unique as was unique their friendship. A two-dimensional city of biographies and of architecture will meet at certain point, which will bring poets back home.
Photo: Julius Kalinskas/„15 minučių“ http://www.15min.lt/en