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My various careers


Once a poet, always a poet
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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I have never abandoned, for instance, or managed to escape like some of my other Lithuanian friends managed, their Lithuanian contact, context. Only because poetry is still considered, no matter what I'm doing, what I have done, the most important thing for me was and still is poetry. See. No even cinema, poetry. Which I continue even today in Lithuanian. And, so that kept me, close to Lithuania and... and they always considered me part of the literary world of Lithuania. Some are envious you know that I'm here, that they are considering me part of, since 19... I mean, I could not be published; they could not publish me until '71; it's in '71 that is, you know, 25 years later after I left Lithuania. And they could already publish so they issued the first sort of collective book of my poetry in '71, I think, in Lithuania. And then again there was nothing and since Lithuania became independent again in 1991, they had reissued I think six or seven of my books of collective poems and diaries and short stories, etc. And for one year I wrote a column for the local farmers newspaper, Wheat. A book that came out in, a book now which is coming out in French and English in, it will be published in Paris. So, I'm very still part and out players, as I said, the theatre. Actually at 16:00 I'm meeting the Minister of Culture of Lithuania at Anthology. And so they gave me a national... their highest national medal or something.

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, National Medal

Duration: 2 minutes, 39 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008