With the demise of the Soviet Union, Lithuania jumped from a neo-romantic modernism straight into the postmodern wasteland of unfettered capitalism. Pensions disappeared along with jobs. Everything underwent "reform". Everything was for sale. Poetry audiences went from stadium size to coffee house size. Giddy joy was followed by disillusion, anxiety, angst.
Gintaras Grajauskas's poetry cannot be understood without this backdrop, for it was here that he cut his poetic teeth and became a major Lithuanian poet. He met the jarring changes around him with a wry smile, black humour, irony - all grounded in respect for the quotidian, the small, the insignificant. Reading his poems, one can laugh and grind one's teeth at the same time. We can see the influences of Polish poetry in the irony and search for meaning in a new cultural landscape. We can see the rejection of lyrical language for the prosaic, the pithy.
Paradoxical, absurd, witty and observant, Grajauskas reflects a society that has seemingly lost interest in speaking for itself, for the whole. The individual is on his/her own. Life is tough, and to be alive today is to drift in uncertainty, but it is a human life that cannot sustain itself on cynicism and irony. We question, we search, and we laugh through the tears, reading his work, knowing ourselves better.
Gintaras Grajauskas is one of Lithuania's leading poets, and also a multi-talented playwright, essayist, novelist and editor. Born in 1966, he has lived and worked in Klaipeda since childhood. He graduated from the S. Simkus High School for music, and later from the Lithuanian National Conservatory's Klaipeda branch in the jazz department. From 1990-94 he worked in radio and television, and from 1994 was the editor of the Klaipeda literary journal Gintaros Lasai. He has been head of the literature department of the Klaipeda State Drama Theater since 2008. 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. Gele 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, with collections published in Germany, Sweden, Italy, Iceland and Poland. A selection of his poems appeared in the bilingual anthology Six Lithuanian Poets (Arc Publications, 2008). The first English translation of his poetry, Then What, translated by Rimis Uzgiris, is published by Bloodaxe in 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.