Translation Tuesday: Poem by Gintaras Grajauskas

"i improve the barricade: sealing cracks with old newsprint and chewing gum"

This week’s poem from renowned Lithuanian poet Gintaras Grajauskas stages a humorous and absurd scenario that hinges on the paradoxical phrase “it’s pointless to resist,” when in fact both sides are resisting each other. Indeed, in these dark and uncertain times, “resistance” is a word on many people’s lips, but Grajauskas knows that to take matters too seriously is self-defeating—after all, humor and satire is a form of resistance itself. In the end, however, what side we align ourselves can often remain a mystery, and all we’re left to do is build up our defences. We’re thrilled to present this translation in English from Rimas Uzgiris, who is the translator of Grajauskas’s book, Then What, forthcoming from Bloodaxe Books in 2018.


i’m building a barricade
around myself

pushing the armoire and bed together,
knocking down the refrigerator

they send a negotiator:
a pizza delivery man

it’s pointless to resist, he says

it’s pointless to resist, i reply

he exits like a victor,
leaving me crabmeat pizza

the postman comes, saying:
this is a registered letter, sign here

i sign, we both smile –
it’s pointless to resist, says the letter

i don’t argue, but politely agree:
there isn’t the slightest hope

then comes the mormon:
do you know god’s plan, he asks

i know, it’s pointless to resist, i say,
and the mormon murmurs down the stairs

so i improve the barricade: sealing cracks
with old newsprint and chewing gum

the doorbell rings and rings

the pizza delivery man, postman
and mormon are at the door

what more, i ask

you were right, they say, it’s pointless
to resist, and there isn’t the slightest hope

which is why we’re on the same side
of the barricade

Translated from the Lithuanian by Rimas Uzgiris

Gintaras Grajauskas
has lived and worked in Klaipėda, Lithuania since childhood. He graduated from the S. Šimkus High School for Music, and then the Lithuanian National Conservatory’s Klaipėda branch in the jazz department. From 1990—94 he worked in radio and television, and from 1994 was the editor of the Klaipėda literary journal
Gintaros Lašai. Since 2008, he heads the Klaipėda State Drama Theater. Grajauskas has published seven books of poetry, two essay collections, one novel and one collection of plays. His work has won numerous awards, including the Z. Gėlė Prize for best poetry debut (1994), and the Poetry Spring Mairionis prize for best poetry collection (2000). His poems have been translated into many languages, including collections published in Germany, Sweden, Italy, Iceland and Poland, and a selected poems, Then What, will be published by Bloodaxe Books (UK) in early 2018. Grajauskas is also a founding member of the blues-rock band Kontrabanda and the jazz-rock band Rockfeleriais for whom he is bassist and lead vocalist.

Rimas Uzgiris is a poet, translator, editor and critic. His work has appeared in Barrow Street, AGNI, Atlanta Review, Iowa Review, Quiddity, Hudson Review, Vilnius Review and other journals. He is translation editor and primary translator of How the Earth Carries Us: New Lithuanian Poets, translator of Caravan Lullabies by Ilzė Butkutė, Crystal: Selected Poems by Judita Vaičiūnaitė (forthcoming from Pica Pica Press), and Then What by Gintaras Grajauskas (forthcoming from Bloodaxe Books, 2018). He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an MFA in creative writing from Rutgers-Newark University. Recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Grant, a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship, and the Poetry Spring 2016 Award for translations of Lithuanian poetry into other languages, he teaches translation at Vilnius University.


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