Alfas Pakėnas, 2012-02-15
Justinas Marcinkevičius. Photo by Zenonas Baltrušis

In brief:

Tuesday, 10 March 1998

Today is the Forty Returning Birds Day. Today is the Forty Holy Martyrs Day. And the birthday of the poet Justinas Marcinkevičius – he is turning 68. What a beautiful name – Justinas. The bird, martyr and poet – there is a strong connection between these words.

I know these words from J. Marcinkevičius‘s book ‘Diary Without Dates’ by heart: ‘Joy is not creative. It has no catharsis. Pain and grief create the greatest miracles of spirit. Great art always teaches to suffer. Why is your poem so sad, - sometimes a reader asks me. Joy is the privilege of the satiated. It is not dangerous. It is nice to look at – as a child that is playing life. But you will start to live and create only when you are touched by pain. Maybe not poems, not dramas. You will start to create a human. Out of yourselves.’

Kaunas Oak Wood, the Public Library Hall. The newest poetry book ‘Step’ by J. Marcinkevičius is being presented. The hall is full of stars of art – J. Marcinkevičius, actress Rūta Staliliūnaitė, composer Giedrius Kuprevičius, priest and poet Ričardas Mikutavičius...

It is always good to listen to J. Marcinkevičius whatever he speaks about – life, Lithuania, his homeland in Važatkiemis grange, the past or present day and especially creative work: “A poem as if creates me. No real poem passes without traces. By writing it I create myself because I cannot offer one world to a reader and to stay in another. A good poem leaves a print in me.”

The poet explained the title of the book: “Another step towards the place with no return. Or maybe towards you, my readers, that I believe to have won as a poet. It is a great victory of mine. Poetry consists of moments and creative work is a constant wrestle with time. I want to believe that it is a step out of the darkness, a step to the light and life, even though I walk the autumn field already.”

What a beautiful rise of the autumn book. The full moon of poetry in the sky of March.

Friday, 6 April 2010

I went to Vilnius. The meeting of the society founded by the writer Vaižgantas in 1921 took place at the Officers House. The poet J. Marcinkevičius, journalist Vilius Bražėnas, alpinist Vladas Vitkauskas and actor Tomas Vaisieta participated in the meeting. People that invoke the longing for life and creation. I gave the memoir book ‘The Unforgettable Vaižgantas’ as a present to J. Marcinkevičius. Later we talked about Vaižgantas, the poet appreciated the subjects that Vaižgantas wrote about – agricultural work, the everyday in a village.

Someone asked the poet where he brought such a huge love to the language and Lithuanian word from. He answered very simply, remembered his home and mother‘s songs and quoted Mikalojus Daukša‘s words from his famous ‘Postilla’ (1599):

“It is neither the bounty of its crops, nor the distinctiveness of its garments, nor the beauty of its countryside, nor the strength of its castles and cities that make a nation hale; rather it is the maintenance and use of its native language, which strengthens fellowship, peace and brotherly love. For our language is our common bond of love, the mother of unity, the father of civic solidarity, the guardian of nationhood. If you destroy our language you destroy cooperation, unity and well-being.”

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

White fresh snow, sun and the Lithuanian tricolour – an exceptionally beautiful combination. I switched on the TV, Eurika Masytė was singing the ‘Freedom’ after the lyrics of J. Marcinkevičius and I saw the note on the screen: ‘In memoriam of Justinas Marcinkevičius. 1930-2011‘.

I understood: Justinas Marcinkevičius had died. Such a nice afternoon – sunny and calm. Just frosty. Black shades darkened the colours of the Independence Day.

I went for a walk to the Oak Wood. I told the oaks that Justinas Marcinkevičius had died.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Today they buried Justinas Marcinkevičius. The poet of the nation, the person who ‘built a Cathedral for his nation during the time of captivity, returned the history back, its beginning with Mindaugas, the first book with Mažvydas, the awakening of iron with Donelaitis, the purest Lithuanian movement with Simonas Daukantas. He created – just as Maironis – his own poetic geography with the holy river Nemunas, the landscape he walked barefoot through and loved. He came back to the Lithuanian folk songs”, according to Viktorija Daujotytė.

A white, snowy, mournful procession. The grave of the poet was covered by a white, spotless snow – just as his life was. They say that the last words of the poet were: “How much time left to the 16th of February?”

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