Translator’s Insights: Julija Gulbinovic

”I was delighted to get involved in the Poetry House Live, this time by connecting Gabriele Labanauskaite, the Lithuanian poet and playwright, with Graham Henderson’s Rimbaud and Verlaine Foundation and translating her play about one of the most iconic Lithuanian poets Salomeja Neris and her house, now a museum. Actually, I translated two plays as Gabriele felt so inspired by what she had read about Salomeja Neris and the visit to her museum. Interestingly, I remember that when Gabriele agreed to write a mini play for Poetry House Live she had just returned from her trip to Ethiopia where she had visited the Arthur Rimbaud museum in Harar! We both found it quite a marvellous coincidence.

We all grew up with her lines deeply ingrained in us, we all had dedicated teachers who introduced us to Salomeja Neris – passionately when analysing her verse, carefully when speaking of her life.

It really is very important for me to see a Lithuanian poet represented on a London stage among other European poetry legends in a play written by a talented new generation playwright. Salomeja Neris is an absolute household name in Lithuania because of her larger than life talent and because of the tragedy of her getting caught up in what was an exceptionally cruel period in history. We all grew up with her lines deeply ingrained in us, we all had dedicated teachers who introduced us to Salomeja Neris – passionately when analysing her verse, carefully when speaking of her life. Playwright Gabriele Labanauskaite, who is an outstanding poet herself, portrays Salomeja through a sharp, critical gaze, with great clarity of language, humour and certain theatrical distance, yet essentially it’s the gentle, emphatic approach of someone who is aware that humans tend to be complex creatures.

So, it fills me with joy and certain pride to think that London audiences will be introduced to that fascinating poet and woman, and will get a glimpse into that dark period in Lithuanian history. It has an even more special meaning given the uncertain times that are unravelling around us in the UK.”

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