LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 14, No.3 - Fall 1968
Editor of this issue: Anatole C. Matulis
Copyright © 1968 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
Leonardas Andriekus, Amens in Amber (New York: Manyland Books, 1968).
The modest shelf of Lithuanian verse in English translation has acquired a new addition, a collection of poems culled from several volumes of Leonardas Andriekus. The author, at present the Provincial Superior of Lithuanian Franciscans in the United States and Canada, came to America as a refugee in 1946 and since then has lived mostly in Kennebunkport, Maine, where the Franciscan Monastery has come to be known as a tourist attraction and a little oasis of Lithuanian art and learning.
Fittingly, Maine's landscape resembles Lithuania's — the world of Andriekus' poetry. The dominant themes of his verse — the peregrinations of the Lithuanian diaspora, the author's lament of homelessness, his adoratio mystica — are well represented in the English-language collection. Not a volume to consult if one is interested in the new trends in Lithuanian poetry, Andriekus' book nevertheless is representative of a significant trend in the Lithuanian poetry between the wars, continued by some older generation poets abroad. It is lyrical poetry and yet strangely impersonal (as the early Greek poetry was), plaintive but net rebellious, enveloped in an aura of melancholy and resignation. Thus it also provides an interesting contrast to much of the intensely personal and dramatic contemporary religious verse in America (Brother Antonius, etc.)
In his sympathetic introduction to the collection, Charles Angoff refers to the Franciscan touch in Andriekus' verse, the "sense of kinship of all things in creation." "Your tear falls through moonlight / On the caraway...," says the poet as he addresses himself to God. Or he adds: "Strengthen me, Lord, that before death awhile / Grasshoppers and I might be merry together." For the roots of this world-feeling one should go not only to Assissi but also to the Lithuanian folk song and primeval consciousness, a significant force in Lithuanian poetry at home and abroad. Like many Lithuanian poets, Andriekus harkens back to the peasant origins of the Lithuanian culture, as in the poem Blessing which Robert Frost would have understood and appreciated.
The translations by Demie Jonaitis, a poet in her own right, are apt and are sometimes charged with greater intensity than the originals. The unassuming simplicity of the author's style is generally maintained. Among minor objections one might list the use of archaisms (sans, anon) which have no equivalents in the Lithuanian versions. The abstract illustrations by Telesforas Valius, although evoking a different world than that of the poems, are outstanding.
It would be difficult to find a financially less profitable undertaking for a publisher than the poetry of a small nation. Manyland Books, which has additional volumes of Lithuanian verse on tap, is to be commended for this valuable effort.