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Poetry Readings: Before the middle of July, Paris


Poetry Readings: Desist, desist
Tomas Venclova Poet
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Now here’s a short poem, written right before I emigrated, and it’s quite gloomy because in those times it wasn’t entirely clear what my fate would be, whether I would be able to emigrate or not. I could have ended up in prison, that’s why a prisoner is mentioned there, and other things which poets in Lithuania then didn’t mention in their poems. It’s written in the form of a villanelle, in other words, in a specific form with refrains. You’ll see how it looks, I even know it off by heart, I don’t have to read it from the book.


Desist, desist. The crumbling sentence dies.

The rooftops’ limit verges on the dawn.

The snow speaks forth, the fire in fugue replies.


The swinging of the pendulum subsides;

The leaden counterbalance marks the ground.

Desist, desist. The crumbling sentence dies.


Reflected in the mirror’s wasteland eyes,

Instead of the world, an outline gleams alone.

The snow speaks forth, the fire in fugue replies.


And back into the cell the captive strides,

And skyward wades the fencing of the zone.

Desist, desist. The crumbling sentence dies.


A grain of time, a splinter of the skies

Envelops both our bodies, like a globe.

The snow speaks forth, the fire in fugue replies.


Things cling to the face only to vaporise,

And bedposts have no angels around.

Desist, desist. The crumbling sentence dies.

The snow speaks forth, the fire in fugue replies.


The English language translation of this poem has been published by permission © Bloodaxe Books (www.bloodaxebooks.com).

Dabar vieną trumpą eilėraštį, parašytą prieš pat emigraciją, ir jisai gana niūrus, kadangi tais laikais nevisai buvo aišku, koks bus mano likimas. Ar man pavyks emigruoti, ar ne, galbūt pateksiu į kalėjimą, dėl to ten minimas ir kalinys, ir kiti dalykai, kurių Lietuvoj poetai tuomet savo eilėraščiuose neminėjo. Parašytas vilanelio forma, kitaip sakant, tokia specifiška forma su pakartojimais. Pamatysite, kaip tai atrodo, aš jį net atmintinai atsimenu, galiu iš knygos ir neskaityti.


Sustok, sustok. Suyra sakinys.

Stogų riba sutampa su aušra.

Byloja sniegas, pritaria ugnis.


Kaskart lėčiau švytuoja skridinys,

Ir aslą braukia švino atsvara.

Sustok, sustok. Suyra sakinys.


Pasaulio vietoj žėri brėžinys,

Kurį atspindi veidrodžio dykra.

Byloja sniegas, pritaria ugnis.


Į kamerą sugrįžta kalinys,

Į dangų brenda zonos aptvara.

Sustok, sustok. Suyra sakinys.


Erdvės skeveldra, laiko trupinys

Apgaubia mūsų kūnus nei sfera.

Byloja sniegas, pritaria ugnis.


Prie veido glaudžias visa, kas išnyks,

Ir angelo galvūgaly nėra.

Sustok, sustok. Suyra sakinys.

Byloja sniegas, pritaria ugnis.

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: Desist, desist

Duration: 1 minute, 54 seconds

Date story recorded: May/June 2011

Date story went live: 20 March 2012