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Poetry Readings: A Conversation in Winter


Introduction to A Conversation in Winter
Tomas Venclova Poet
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Another poem is A Conversation in Winter. It was written in 1971 – and that’s now 40 years ago – about the Polish uprising. There was a worker’s uprising in Poland then which was put down and I was in Palanga at the time. Well, Poland in fact is on the other side of the Baltic Sea. I tried to see what was happening beyond that sea in another country which had, without a doubt, an influence on Lithuania’s fate. Well, there’s mention there of the last ring of a tree, it’s an old Samogitian superstition or possibly a legend that before uprisings there are very cold winters and then the rings of the trees are very narrow because in a cold winter wood grows very slowly. And when you cut a tree down you can even say what year an uprising took place. Furthermore, I remember Czesław Miłosz asking me a lot of questions about that legend because, as it happens, he translated that poem into Polish. He had it published in Kultura. This is a conversation, the poem is a dialogue. First you have a landscape, and then a dialogue begins. It’s the conversation of a person with himself. There are no other participants, just the one person. In one place another participant is mentioned – God, who may or may not exist.

Kitas eilėraštis – "Pašnekesys žiemą". Parašytas tūkstantis devyni šimtai septyniasdešimt pirmaisiais metais, jau ir keturiasdešimt metų. Apie Lenkijos sukilimą. Lenkijoje buvo tada darbininkų sukilimas, kuris buvo numalšintas, ir aš buvau tuo metu Palangoje. Nu, Lenkija faktiškai anapus Baltijos jūros. Aš tarsi stengiuosi įžiūrėti per tą jūrą, kas ten vyksta kitoje valstybėje, kas, be abejo, veikia ir Lietuvos likimą. Na, ten kalbama dar apie paskutiniąją medžio rievę, tai yra senas žemaičių toks, nu, prietaras ne prietaras, padavimas ne padavimas, kad prieš sukilimus būna labai šaltos žiemos, ir tada medžių rievės būna labai siauros, kadangi esant šaltai žiemai medy ta mediena labai lėtai auga. Ir nukirtus medį gali net pasakyti, kurie čia buvo sukilimo metai. Tie, kurių pati siauriausia rievė. Toliau, atsimenu, Česlovas Milošas mane ilgai klausinėjo apie tą padavimą, nes jis tą eilėraštį kaip tik išvertė į lenkų kalbą. Išspausdino Kultūroje. Čia yra pokalbis, eilėraštis yra dialogas, iš pradžių eina peizažas, kraštovaizdis, paskui prasideda dialogas. Ir tai yra pokalbis žmogaus paties su savimi. Ten nėra kitų pašnekovų, tiktai vienas asmuo. Vienoj vietoj minimas trečias pašnekovas, tai Dievas, kuris galbūt yra, galbūt ir nėra.

Born in 1937, Tomas Venclova is a Lithuanian scholar, poet, author and translator of literature. He was educated at Vilnius University and later at Tartu University. As an active participant in the dissident movement he was deprived of Soviet citizenship in 1977 and had to emigrate. Between 1977 and 1980 he lectured at University of California, Berkeley, where he became friends with the Polish poet Czesław Miłosz, who was a professor of Slavic Languages and Literature at the school, as well as the Russian poet Joseph Brodsky. He is currently a full professor at Yale University.

Listeners: Andrzej Wolski

Film director and documentary maker, Andrzej Wolski has made around 40 films since 1982 for French television, the BBC, TVP and other TV networks. He specializes in portraits and in historical films. Films that he has directed or written the screenplay for include Kultura, which he co-directed with Agnieszka Holland, and KOR which presents the history of the Worker’s Defence Committee as told by its members. Andrzej Wolski has received many awards for his work, including the UNESCO Grand Prix at the Festival du Film d’Art.

Tags: A Conversation in Winter, 1971, Palanga, Poland, Kultura, Czesław Miłosz

Duration: 1 minute, 58 seconds

Date story recorded: May/June 2011

Date story went live: 20 March 2012