Greta Ambrazaitė

Lithuania

Greta Ambrazaitė was born in the autumn of 1993. She gained the bachelor‘s degree in Lithuanian Philology and studied Spanish language at the side. Since 2018 she has been studying the Master of Literary Anthropology and Culture in Vilnius University. At times she makes lo-fi music. The author won the First Book competition in 2018 with her poetry book Fragile Things. The book was awarded the Young Yotvingian Prize as the best young poet’s book, published in two years. It is shortlisted in the Book of the Year Campaign 2018 for the poetry book cathegory.


I first read Greta Ambrazaitė’s poetry about four years ago – even before her debut book, the author was known to be an active participant of readings and poetry festivals, and her poems were published in the cultural press and in almanacs. I remember a peculiar world made from letters and rhythms, one that is seemingly self-sufficient yet overcomes solipsism by addressing the reader, calling them to take a deeper plunge, and which does not “imprison in speeches,” for “how great are the things that bind us, / how petty the things that divide us, / do not imprison me in speeches, / behind them – an iron red of the lips” (kraujo pelytė (“blood mousie”) p. 9). Greta surely does not imprison in speeches – the author writes and performs songs, the lyrics of which are often poems written by the poet herself. This occupation has a background story with a striking title – kog leval: “When I was about 16 years old, I had a dream that I was talking to a person in an old country house. He puts his hand out to me, holding a little box with the inscription ‘kog leval’ written on it. As he gives it to me, he says: ‘This will save you from everything’” (taken from the author’s conversation with Lina Liucija Ožeraityte). Greta has scientific pursuits in addition to creative writing – the author holds a Bachelor’s degree in philology from Vilnius University, and is currently studying for a Master’s degree of culture and anthropology of literature.

Having read and heard so much of her work, some time later I saw Greta herself, reading poetry at an event. She struck me as a profound individual; the depth of her personality, as well as her distinctive secrecy and fatefulness, suited the peculiarities of her poems. I felt her to become one with her works as she read them, and even after having participated in several of her readings, the impression is still strong. For that reason, I eagerly awaited her debut, and I was rooting for her in the First Book Competition organized by the Lithuanian Writers Union. Greta won, while her debut book of poems Trapūs daiktai (“Fragile Things”) was met with success – generously reviewed by critics and readers, it earned her the Young Yotvingian Award and received the title of Poetry Book of the Year.

Greta and her works are often characterized using the notions of fatalism and Gothicness – I do not deny the validity of these notions, but, knowing the author to be already tired of these descriptions, I seek other ways to approach her writings.

Trapūs daiktai, the title of Greta’s first book, I think, does a very good job of reflecting the essence of her poems. In Ambrazaitė’s texts, the Human is considered philosophically – “as a thing, the thing of all things” (p. 30). This fragility is both eternal and connoting ephemerality and oblivion, as stated by the subject in the poem apkasai (“trenches”): “around are sticky air and fragile things / that I will soon forget” (p. 22).

Some of her poetry’s exceptional features are its atmosphere, thick and replete with darkness, and its powerful images and intertexts. Greta’s texts are viscous, commanding, and lush, and invite the reader for a tough, perhaps even dire tête-à-tête. Much of the attention is devoted to marginal states of being, with ending up in “chambers of horror” (the term is mine – L. B.), places of stagnation and ruin. The dualism of Hypnos and Thanatos and the “ruts of pain” are also very important in Greta’s works. Based on a few poems, we may perceive that the subject find themselves in a psychiatric hospital and become enabled “just as they unbound me, I began to write – / erratically, pitifully, but with an unwavering trust in my truth on judgment day, / which had almost finished turning into a hunt, / you do not comprehend your condition, they accuse, and turn the ceiling into a mirage” (ne arba šiandien (“no or today”), p. 33). As I read Greta’s poems, I usually envision a subject that desperately longs for certainty, clarity, perceptibility, yet they are oftentimes submerged in a dreamlike and deformed version of reality, in a disfunction, disharmony, in the pareidolias actualized by the author – because we are constantly broadcasted by surveillance cameras. In some places, this almost Don Quixotesque thirst acquires a very clear shape; for example, in the form of an invitation – “let’s have a smoke and get outta here,” a promise – “we’ll leave this unsustainability soon,” or a desire: “how should we break the bottom of consciousness and bring to light / the constant echo of reality, unmask the guises… […] how should we avoid the battlefield, / where nine thousand abstractions are getting ready to charge (apkasai, p. 22).

The subject created by the author is a believer in the “religion of ruin” (the term is mine – L. B.) and asserts to have “thought about God not enough” to be able to tear this hazy maya apart. The subject captures not the death of God, but God’s silence as a premise for the founding of the mentioned maya, as “all the speakers in the universe are buzzing in silence.”

Not just biblical images, but other kinds of intertexts are also important in Greta’s poetry: the book’s epigraph contains a quote from Ir apsiniauks žvelgiantys pro langą, a novel by the exceptional Lithuanian prose writer Saulius Tomas Kondrotas; the poems contain references to Sartre, Kafka, and Sylvia Plath, to film (David Lynch’s Blue Velvet), to music (John and Yoko), etc.

To summarize – Greta has a talented way of viewing and reflecting on the world. Her creative work is profound, shocking, and authentic. Ambrazaitė is a poet of darklight.

 

Written by Lina Buividavičiūtė

Translated by Markas Aurelijus Piesinas