Then What by Gintaras Grajauskas, trans. by Rimas Uzgiris
With the demise of the Soviet Union, Lithuania jumped from a neo-romantic modernism straight into the postmodern wasteland of unfettered capitalism. Pensions disappeared along with jobs. Everything underwent “reform”. Everything was for sale. Poetry audiences went from stadium size to coffee house size. Giddy joy was followed by disillusion, anxiety, angst.
Gintaras Grajauskas’s poetry cannot be understood without this backdrop, for it was here that he cut his poetic teeth and became a major Lithuanian poet. He met the jarring changes around him with a wry smile, black humour, irony – all grounded in respect for the quotidian, the small, the insignificant. Reading his poems, one can laugh and grind one’s teeth at the same time. We can see the influences of Polish poetry in the irony and search for meaning in a new cultural landscape. We can see the rejection of lyrical language for the prosaic, the pithy.
Paradoxical, absurd, witty and observant, Grajauskas reflects a society that has seemingly lost interest in speaking for itself, for the whole. The individual is on his/her own. Life is tough, and to be alive today is to drift in uncertainty, but it is a human life that cannot sustain itself on cynicism and irony. We question, we search, and we laugh through the tears, reading his work, knowing ourselves better.