Marius Burokas, "In United States authors worry less" 1

Jurga Tumasonytė, 2015-05-18

In brief: Writer and translator Marius Burokas recently visited the United States where he with several other poets presented the anthology of the latest Lithuanian poetry "How the Earth Carries Us. New Poets from Lithuania." The conversation is about the travel experiences, writers' lives overseas and local topicalities.

I asked M. Burokas if it was his first time in the United States. "No, it is my second time," said the writer. "I went there for the first time fourteen years ago and stayed almost for four months. I participated in Iowa state International Writing Program, which draws writers from all over the world to the States - they write, read their works and lectures, communicate and then they receive a two and a half-week paid trip on their preferred route within the country.

Returning to the topic of this year's trip I wondered who had the idea of taking an almanac of the newest Lithuanian poetry to the USA. Marius said that the trip was organized by Lithuanian Cultural Institute. "We got the idea two or three years ago, when we visited the Leipzig Fair and somehow it came up in the conversation that it would be good to publish a contemporary Lithuanian poetry anthology in English. I agreed to compile it and then things slowly started moving. Thank God, Rimas Užgiris joined the project and we could work with him, because he knows Lithuanian well and was the main translator of the almanac."

Marius Burokas said that it is important to interest the people to whom you are taking the almanac. "First we went to Minneapolis, to the conference which was essentially a book fair for small publishers. There, gathered writers, publishers and MFA - creative writing students. Our readings did not take place at the most convenient time – it was held at 9 o'clock, on Saturday morning. Bearing in mind that at night a variety of events, where taking place, such as slam tournaments, those thirty people who had come to listen to us and afterwards said "thanks" where not such a bad thing.

I was interested whether Lithuanian poets visited other authors’ readings. Marius Burokas answered that "it is obvious that American authors worry less. Their goal is to discover a relationship with the listener, to engage, to make them laugh and not pretend that, I am such a cool writer and I was forced to read here, although I do not care about you at all. If you really think you are so cool, you will simply not be invited again.

I wondered if there were any substantial differences between Lithuanian and American literary field. According to Marius Burokas, everything there is simply more public. "Although the writers' world is quite closed - everyone knows each other (in certain regions). The famous ones meet in many festivals, interact with each other, I think, just like here. They have many associations, divided in various unions. There is no single association, because it would be a very clumsy machine. An American writer basically has to work - to publish books, travel around the states (organize so-called book tours), to read in the book stores, libraries, to communicate with readers. Thus everything is based on communication with people.”

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