Name
Eugenijus Ališanka
Country
Lithuania
Eugenijus Ališanka was born 1960 in Barnaul/Siberia, Russia, a town to which his parents had been banished. He grew up in Vilnius, Lithuania, where he still lives today. After studying mathematics, since 1991 he has published four volumes of poetry as well as two books of essays. In addition, he has translated poems by Zbigniew Herbert and Wislawa Szymborska from Polish as well as by Aleš Debeljak from Slovenian. Ališanka directs a literary festival in Lithuania and since 2003 he has been chief editor of the Vilnius Review, a magazine that presents contemporary Lithuanian literature in English translation.

He is one of the most important Lithuanian poets of the younger generation – and in addition a great traveller, a poet on the road, who in his "unwritten stories" roves across Europe, taking the readers with him on this tour d'Europe: the Grande Place in Brussels appears in his poems together with hordes of drunken football fans, the water of the Seine with its tiny wrinkled waves, or the Hotel Rossija in Moscow, which triggers a longing for wild drinking binges. It is a map of the senses that guides the poet through the continent and permits him to enter into – self-ironic – contemplation of his situation as a Lithuanian traveller ("the descendant of barbarians with his long hair / blowing in the wind is ready to conquer europe") and as a writer in today's world: "I'd sell my poem with all its spare parts / slightly worn in europe's oldest language / the poet's jacket is from a secondhand shop / and his pockets are filled with bits of tobacco / I'd sell it cheap even for a bottle of red / from the bordeaux region (...) I do everything so that I will not have to write / I feed the pigeons I ride the trains / every day I do better I'd sell my last poem / with all its spare parts / and head back for the woods."

From this starting point, he leads on to the stage of European culture and literature and into the layers of European history, equipped with a metaphorical stock from Greek-Roman antiquity to Chernobyl. On this stage, the characters – like extras in a crowd – are overcome by events rather than being granted the roles of true actors: "on baltrameus' night I hid in a haystack / I wasn't of a different faith but had no say in the matter / the most monstrous can neither expect / the grace of god nor buy indulgences / mostly hang around the house feed the livestock / rake hay or work / in the office lick envelopes". Alongside such "great history" there is the "petite histoire", the many mosaic pieces which ultimately constitute a life: "more and more I'm interested in details / a loose stitch a wine stain on a collar / a tattered sock soft hair on a nose / everything here is my history / my siberia and my america / my travels over fields of mars cafés in vilnius / roofs on dzerzhinsky street / la petite histoire a small labyrinth of nerves".

Another, vertical level may be found in poems by Eugenijus Ališanka – the non-simultaneity of time in today's Central Europe, which is sometimes summed up in a single Lithuanian village: "summer's end at eight it's getting dark already / dogs communicate by telephone barks / at night the connection is better distant neighbours / bark to each other about women and bones about drunken misha / staggering along garden borders / omnitel gives discounts at full moon ..."