Agnė Žagrakalytė

Lithuania

Agnė Žagrakalytė was born in 1979 in Puodžiai village, Pasvalys district. She studied Lithuanian language and literature at the Lithuanian university of Educational sciences. She has published three books of poetry: Išteku (2003), Visa tiesa apie Alisą Meler (2008), Štai (2017) and two novels: Eigulio duktė: byla F 117 (2013) and Klara (2014). Now she lives in Brussels.

 

Her works have been included into various almanacs and collections. The book Išteku was awarded the Young Yotvingian prize as a best young poet’s book. 2013 Novel Eigulio duktė: byla F 117 was included into the list of twelve most creative books of the year, this novel bring a Jurga Ivanauskaitė award to Agnė and Patriot Award in 2014, also it was nominated in the Book of the Year Campaign, Prose section.

 

Her newest poetry book „Štai“ is shortlisted in the Book of the Year campaign this year (the winner will be announced next February in Vilnius Book Fair).


Games by Agnė Žagrakalytė Serious to Death

Works by poet and prose writer Agnė Žagrakalytė is remarkable for their sensibility and playfulness which is also tragic in some respect because it is spreading tension difficult to describe. Sensory experiences are particularly obvious in poetry. These are exceptional texts in the general modern Lithuanian literature context because Lithuanian poetry, both modern and canonical, is characterised by reserved sensibility and particular resignation, and it is a reflection full of past conditions and experiences. Poets remember things which took place some time ago, people met and they egret about words said or unsaid. Meanwhile, poems by Žagarskytė are taking place here and now.

Immediate conditions constitute both the poet’s strength and her vulnerability. Her poems are strong for their suggestiveness, the ability to gain a form (fragmented and liminal), experiences which have not yet entered the realm of past and are still vibrating. However, these vibrations show incompleteness and a particular poetic chaos. Depending upon the reader’s taste, this might be both a disadvantage (in case classical refined forms are valued) and an advantage (in case the priority is assigned to the experiment, the event).

Prose by Žagrakalytė (novels Eigulio duktė: byla F 117 (Forester’s Daughter: Case F 117), 2013; Klara, 2015) is also characterised by fragmentation, poetic constellations of events and details. The play of genres is favoured, particular hybrids are created, i.e. the mix of psychological novel and comics, the insertion of fragments of the stream of consciousness in a historical novel. Or simply to “forget” the ending because where there is a continuous action, the end cannot exist.

The poet has denied the distinction between the upper and the lower literature in her works and statements, she has ironized the understanding of the creator as a suffering genius. Žagrakalytė assumes that creation should provide joy to both the creator himself and the reader: “Writing poems is for some reason imagined as a very sacral phenomenon such as breaking through the heart valve and creeping on a sheet of paper. This is acceptable. Meanwhile, I want brighter colours and textures. To be happy and dance rather than creep suffering from spiritual tortures “.

The topic of femininity is often attributed to female writers by Lithuanian literary critics, which is also the case all other the world. In the case of Žagrakalytės this move is both legal and partly illegal. Femininity, or, to be more precise, becoming a woman as a certain life programme is an important topic of the first collection titled Išteku (I am Getting Married) (2003). By employing folklore motifs and irony, the relations between lads and girls are represented as well as the search of identity of a young woman. The collection ends by a triumphalnt poem titled Išteku (I am Getting Married): marriage is here understood as a possibility to liberate from too high sensitivity, the constant search and uncertainty. Subtle erotic and romantic situations such as meetings, separations, misunderstandings and misapprehensions are common.

However, later collections, namely Visa tiesa apie Alisą Meler (All True about Alisa Meler) (2008) and Štai: (Here:) (2016) confirm that one cannot run away from the nature which is responsive to the environment and external triggers rather than male or female, even though marriage. Visa tiesa apie Alisą Meler is also exceptional for the fact that the poet starts the intrigue with the genre of comics: pictures and short prose texts are published near poems. Perhaps the poet does not stich to one lyrical subject for this reason and the character of Alisa, an emphatically invented character, appears either instead of her or together with her. She is playing, tidying the house, loving, making love, being angry, separating and getting married with other characters, namely the fox, the thieves and mushroom makers. Usual life situations of the adults, when looked through the prism of comics or adventure story for children, lose their dramatism and gain a sub-layer of a colourful adventure.

In the third collection titled Štai: sensibility liberates itself from any screws and, I would say, it becomes a blow rather than a game; a violent blow, I would say. And, although the poet states that she would rather buy dresses than write a poem with “cut-glass edges” (p. 9), it is shots and sparks and not glitter which characterise the poetics of Štai: best. The choice by book artist Ilona Kukenytė to decorate the pages with black, white and red holes is also meaningful: these stand for both shot tags and targets: “a spark in the skull bucket:” (p. 27). It is not accidental that a bullet and a shot are among most common images of the collection: shots behind the park’s fence / hunting shots” (p. 10); “illness as a bullet; / you never know where it comes from and where it hits” (p. 54); “A burnt shot hole, / I would be, I was: / volo ero sum.“ (p. 57).

Intensity, like all other things in life, has its darker side too: the events, occurrences and experiences which have taken place in Štai as well as the sequences of images serve as a whirlpool in which one is encouraged to frown. Everything is very thrilling and changing fast, sounds and colours are spread, shapes alter in order for a specific paranoid mood to appear where such intensity has no positive outcomes: “small / sheep backs falling further / from he edge of abys to which they are falling and / falling endlessly / are my only love” (p. 43). Perhaps the collection is started and finished by poems declaring the feat of speed. On the other hand, your fear attracts your most. It will probably be clarified in the future collections by the poem whether this fear is grounded.

By Virginija Cibarauskė