Lithuanian Culture Institute
Lithuanian Culture Guide, Poetry

Tomas Venclova

Photo by Algimantas Aleksandravičius

Tomas Venclova (b. 1937) is Professor of Slavonic Literature at Yale University, and a famous Lithuanian poet, translator and essayist. He was awarded the Lithuanian National Prize in 2000. He participated in the dissident movement during the Soviet period; in 1977 he emigrated to the United States. Widely considered to be Lithuania’s greatest poet, Venclova is, as Joseph Brodsky points out in his introduction to Venclova’s Winter Dialogue, a poet who “has absorbed all the best to be found in the neighbouring territories”, i.e. Russia and Poland. 

Venclova‘s first book of verse, entitled Kalbos ženklas (The Sign of Language, 1972), was appraised by Algirdas Julius Greimas, a French proponent of semiotics who was of Lithuanian descent, as “the turning point in the Lithuanian lyrical tradition”. A particular precision of form, intertextuality, a Stoic posture of lyrical protagonist and vocal polyphony characterise his verse. A civil motif is recurrent as well as the theme of language-to-reality relationship. Venclova‘s poetry is marked by the motive of exile, of the world turning void and overcome by entropy.  

Venclova’s latest book of poetry, Eumenidžių giraitė (The Grove of the Eumenides, 2016), features his own original poems and translations of poetry. Eumenides translates from Greek as “the gracious ones”. This is a euphemism for the Erinyes (the Furies) who would pursue people who had done wrong, harrying and reminding them of the things they did. Therefore, memory, remembrance of poetic influences and personalities, forms, images and biographical details intentionally become the central point of both Venclova’s poems and the translations included in the collection. Oblivion, along with death, is defeated by an essential faith in language, which is the only resistance to the decay reigning over the whole material world: “But silence ends and sentence remains” (p. 32). 

Selected translations

Russian: Точка притяжения. Разговоры с Эллен Хинси. Translated by Anna Gerasimova. Saint Petersburg: Ivan Limbakh Publishing House, 2021

Metelinga: Стихотворения и не только. Translated by Anna Gerasimova. Москва: Пробел-2000 – Umka-Press, 2017

Похвала острову. Translated by Georgij Jefremov, Anna Gerasimova, Vitalij Asovskij, etc. Saint Petersburg: Ivan Limbakh Publishing House, 2016

Искатель камней: избранные стихотворения. Translated by Vladimir Gandelsman. Москва: Новое Литературное Обозрение, 2015

Пограничье. Публицистика разных лет. Translated by Vladislava Agafonova, Ana Gerasimova, Jekaterina Dobrochotova-Maikova, Alina Izrailevič, Igoris Kolesovas, Aleksandras Lebedevas, Natalija Prokopovič, Marija Čepaitytė, Tomas Čepaitis, Liubov Černaja. Saint Petersburg: Ivan Limbakh Publishing House, 2015

Вильнюс: город в Европе. Translated by Marija Čepaitytė. Saint Petersburg: Ivan Limbakh Publishing House, 2012

Гранёный воздух. Translated by Vladimir Mishin Gandelsman. Moscow: OGI, 2002

Albanian: Vilnius. Një histori personale. Transated  from English by Luan Morina. Skopje: Shkupi, 2019

Dialogu i dimrit. Translated from English by Irma Kurti. Skopje: Shkupi, 2019

Dialog në dimër. Translated by Gentian Çoçoli, Rigels Halili. Tirana: Aleph, 2005

Polish: Magnetyczna Północ: Rozmawia Ellen Hinsey. Translated by Maryna Ochab. Warszawa: Zeszyty Literackie, 2018.

Obrócone w ciszę: Wiersze wybrane. Translated by Stanisław Barańczak, Zbigniew Dmitroca, Beata Kalęba, Alina Kuzborska, Adam Pomorski. Warszawa: Zeszyty Literackie, 2017

Wilno. Przevodnik biofraficzny. Translated by Beata Piasecka. Warsaw: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 2013

Swedish: Ankomst till Atlantis. Dikter 1966–2014. Translated by Alan Asaid. Stocholm: Bokförlaget Faethon, 2018

Former av hopp. Translated by Loreta Burnytė, Anna Harrison, Mikael Nydahl, Rikard Wennerholm. Ariel, 2001

German: Der magnetische Norden: Gespräche mit Ellen Hinsey: Erinnerungen. Translated by Claudia Sinnig. Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2017

Gespräch im Winter. Translated by Claudia Sinnig, Durs Grünbein. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2007

French: Vilnius: un ville en Europe. Translated by André Cabaret. Strasbourg: Circé, 2016

Le Chant limitrophe. Translated by Henre Abril. Strasbourg: Circé, 2013

Czech: Čas rozpůlil se … = Įpusėja para … Translated by Věra Kociánová. Pecka: Venkovské dílo, 2014

Slovenian: Stičišče. Translated by Klemen Pisk. Ljubljana: Beletrina, 2014

EnglishThe junction: selected poems. Translated by Ellen Hinsey, Diana Senechal. Tarset: Bloodaxe Books, 2008

Translations on-line: