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Arrival in New York


Literary activity in Lithuania
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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I was technical editor of the weekly newspaper of this town, of 5000-6000 people, and the editor was one of my friends of my own age. And he was one day arrested by Germans and taken into the army, and so I was there then to replace him and to run the newspaper which I did for like a year until I had to leave. But, not exactly actually, my writings, sort of were noticed in the other, in the higher places of Lithuanian literary community, already in Vilnius and... you know, and they thought that I am too good to be with this little local newspaper, that I should go to some more important newspaper, so they drafted me to another city where there was a weekly literary newspaper with some other pages for news, but it was both very much literary weekly, where I again ended up by practically running it by myself because the chief editor was always somewhere else, and that is really, there, from there that I... and at the same time as I was working underground and I had to leave, you know, I decided to leave for Vienna because I was about to be arrested.

But already my, sort of literary reputation was growing and for one... very strange reason was that, I had read, I had just zoomed through all the libraries that I knew existed around my region and my town and the, this other town, and some of those libraries besides books contained also volumes of the back issues of some journals and magazines, and I had read them all, so whenever somebody was doing some article on something, on something and they did not know where to find it, they used to call me because I knew where to find it. I knew in what book, in what journal. So, that was the beginning of my sort of literary activities; I was writing also poetry. So my first poetry appeared in Lithuania and my first essays appeared already in Lithuania when I was 20. My first poem was published when I was 14 in one of the publications.

Jonas Mekas (1922-2019), Lithuanian-born poet, philosopher and film-maker, set up film collectives, the Anthology Film Archive, published filmzines and made hundreds of films, all contributing to his title as 'the godfather of American avant-garde cinema'. He emigrated to America after escaping from a forced labour camp in Germany in 1945.

Listeners: Amy Taubin

Amy Taubin is a contributing editor for "Film Comment" magazine and "Sight and Sound" magazine. Her book, "Taxi Driver", was published in 2000 in the British Film Institute's Film Classics series. Her chapter on "America: The Modern Era" is part of "The Critics Choice" published by Billboard Press, 2001, and her critical essays are included in many anthologies, mostly recently in "Frank Films: The Film and Video Work of Robert Frank" published by Scalo.

She wrote for "The Village Voice" weekly from 1987 into 2001 both as a film and a television critic. She also wrote a column for the "Village Voice" titled "Art and Industry" which covered American independent filmmaking. Her first weekly film criticism job was at the "SoHo Weekly News". Her writing has also appeared in "Art Forum", the "New York Times", the "New York Daily News", the "LA Weekly", "Millennium Film Journal", "US Harpers Bazaar" and many other magazines. She is a member of the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Online.

She started her professional life as an actress, appearing most notably on Broadway in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie", and in avant-garde films, among them Michael Snow's "Wavelength", Andy Warhol's "Couch", and Jonas Mekas' "Diaries, Notebooks and Sketches".

Her own avant-garde film, "In the Bag" (1981) is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art and the Friends of Young Cinema Archives in Berlin.

She was the video and film curator of "The Kitchen" from 1983-1987.

She has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from N.Y.U. in cinema studies. She teaches at the School of Visual Arts in both the undergraduate and the MFA graduate programs, and lectures frequently at museums, media centers, and academic institutions. In 2003, she received the School of Visual Arts' art historian teaching award.

Tags: Lithuania

Duration: 3 minutes, 27 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008