Wednesday, February 3, 2016

From Volume 36: A poem by Rimas Uzgiris

by Rimas Uzgiris
were swept downstream
in a flood that began with small
buds of water blossoming
into wreaths of rain
that thrust us into a movie
that went faster as we approached the end
and you could scarcely keep up
or enjoy the scenery
passing the sand bar
it all seemed so arranged
driftwood skeletons draped
with souls like shredded sheets
and mewing gulls of memory poked
a sagging sky
then the sea
opened its mouth
O peace that passeth understanding
the part of us that is made of water
will be taken up into clouds.

In the Spotlight: Rimas Uzgiris

Rimas Uzgiris is a poet, translator, editor and critic. His work has appeared in Barrow Street, AGNI, Atlanta Review, Quiddity,The Iowa Review, The Hudson Review and other journals. He is translation editor and primary translator of How the Earth Carries Us: New Lithuanian Poets (Vilnius, 2015). He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an MFA in creative writing from Rutgers-Newark University. Recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Grant and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship, he teaches literature, translation and creative writing at Vilnius University. His poem "We" is featured in Volume 36.

First, what was your inspiration for your poem "We"?

I was reading and translating a Lithuanian poet at the time, Donatas PetroŇ°ius, who had written a series of poems in response to films. One of these was inspired by Jim Jarmusch's "Dead Man". I recalled the river journey at the end of the film where the character William Blake floats out into the ocean to die. There is a dramatic and beautiful shot of his boat going out to sea with rain clouds looming beyond, sunlight breaking through. This image and the preceding journey triggered a strong personal response, which also struck me as archetypal. So I wrote the poem with that in mind--William Blake's journey is our journey. Hence the first-person plural, which I almost never use. The specific imagery of the poem is all from my own memories of rivers and seas. I made no attempt to comment on the movie because the thought of it had called up so many personal associations. The style of the poem was influenced by my reading W.S. Merwin's The Shadow of Sirius at the time. I was inspired by a number of his un-punctuated poems with no stanzaic form which seemed to fit the theme here of a continuous journey that is over so quickly you hardly realize what has happened.

How did you get into writing? When did you know that it was something you wanted to pursue seriously?