Donatas Petrošius

Lithuania

Donatas Petrošius (b. 1978) is a poet and essayist. He studied at the Lithuanian Pedagogical University and received a MA in literature. He worked as program director for the Lithuanian Writer’s Union and was director of Writer’s Union Fund. He has published two poetry books: En Durance D / Iš tvermės D (2004) and Aorist / Aoristas (2009). His first book En Durance D won the Young Yotvingian Prize (2004) and the Zigmas Gaidamavičius-Gėlė Prize (2005). The second book won the Lithuanian Writer’s Union Prize.

Petrošius’ poems have been translated into English, Latvian, Russian, Swedish, Catalonian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Georgian, Farsi, Bulgarian, Rumanian, Turkish, Welsh and German. His essays have been translated into English, Polish and German.

More and more often, he now writes in dialect (Southern Samogitian). His present interests include local lore, sports, and quantum physics.


As I started to think of a text which would introduce Donatas Petrošius’ works, I imagined tragic scenarios that could happen to Lithuania. For instance, a war would start. It is interesting whether people would turn to writers and gather in stadiums in order to listen to poetry as if it were a form of psychotherapy? Another young writer, historian Tomas Vaiseta, has responded to my considerations as follows: “Of course, the roots and traditions of the conceit of art and the artist are considerably deeper but this is unavoidably related with the period of Soviet occupation as well as the role of artists developed systematically in our region.  Therefore, I consider the deromanticizing of artists and art one of the attempts to exit the space of Soviet and post-Soviet signs.” 
Donatas Petrošius’ debut took place in the literary field 14 years after the proclamation of the country’s independence. During these years, the major part of the society has bought new furniture and the books purchased in haystacks in the Soviet times were either brought to the cellar or left for buyers-up of old books. Such changes were painful for many older writers used to consideration and respect. The later generation whose debut took place after the declaration of independence was notable for its rebellious entry, creative manifestations and the confrontation with the old writers. When reacting to the publication of Petrošius’ book “Iš tvermės D” (En Durance D), readers regarded the author as a new highly talented poet. As written in the annotation of the first book by Petrošius, “The poems of the debutant were published in literary press in 2011 for the first time. Due to intensive expression of emotions and reflections as well as individual poetic language his poems have already been noticed”. Of course, the general public knows nothing (and knew nothing) about him, while the author himself, after receiving praises and favourable reviews as well as awards, has, differently from the ones who are still sad about the small number of readers of poetry and their indifference, demonstrated his deromanticized relation with poetry: “You will not become someone once you have published a book. Nothing will change. Sometimes I think that I would prefer it if all other things were in the right order to the title of famous writer and even to the Nobel Prize.  Some funny people think that they will bring significant meaning to their lives if they publish a number of books. It is nothing but wishful thinking. Such self-importance should be avoided.” 
The second book by the poet titled “Aoristas” (The Aorist) was published 5 years later. Literary Critic Virginija Cibarauskė has commented on the poet's works as follows: “If Petrošius’ ‘Iš Tvermės D’ (En Durance D) and ‘Aoristas’ (The Aorist) were a film, it would certainly be a European film, most probably Scandinavian, due to its coldness, slowness and perfect work by an operator emphasising the sub-shadows of shadows and alternating angles in a subtle way. Nothing seems to happen in  Petrošius’ world as the lyrical subject is a passive observer rather than an active participant; still, the inactivity, slowness and thinking, which is almost opaque, as well as refusal constitute the source of meaning.” 
 The book “Aoristas” (The Aorist) contains poems dated from 1999 to 2009. The poet himself comments on writing poems as follows: “I am keen on crosswords to such a degree that they finally become terribly easy. Once you have solved them, nothing else is to be done. Meanwhile, poems are very complicated crosswords. Especially the rhymed ones. Not to talk about free verse. This is even awful. I have been writing for examples of free verse for two years and I cannot finish them. It is very complicated. I am not able to finish them. In no way. Generally, there is no difference in whether you publish five or fifty books as this will make you neither more advanced nor better; the only truth is that you will burden various readers and scholars whose work is to analyse some kind of writing.” Several critics have emphasised the intensity of “Aorisas” (The Aorist). Vida Endriukaitytė has written: “I would mention the volume of the book among its few minuses. The material of such scope could have been divided into two books. It is the above-mentioned thickness and intensity of verses that make you tired because it is difficult to “process” the matters already read and you become curious to read more at the same time.” The writing strategy of Petrošius was defended by Emilija Visockaitė: “However, I cannot fully agree with the dissatisfaction of other reviewers who seem to act together and claim that they “get tired once they have read half of the book”, the attention must be “moved by force” and the author should have published two collections instead. I have serious doubts on whether poetry is interested in keeping one’s attention (except for the author) and I can only guess what it means to read half of a poetry book: should we parallel it to John Irving’s novel? I find the number of poems and dates under some of them (...) one of the most attractive phenomena in the post-modern discourse of poets who hasten to get published. Hardly could the majority of the current young epigones of poetry explain the differences between a collection (15 poems piled) and a book. Working with a poem, rewriting it and searching for words require time which is nowadays often lacking. 
Indeed, Petrošius acts in the way he likes because he writes poems as if he were dealing with difficult crosswords, thus digressing from the myth of creator or genius and turning poetry into a struggle with himself. This is exactly what he is like as he exists for himself in the same way as his multi-layered intellectual poetry which is discovered by those truly interested in it.  

Jurga Tumasonytė