Lithuanian-American Poet and Zen Practitioner AL ZOLYNAS

By David A. Bainbridge


I would like to introduce you to my favorite poet, Algirdas Zolynas. His most recent book was his just released, Near and Far, Garden Oak Press, December, 2019,141 pages. $11.69 at B&N.

Al’s poems are personal, rich in emotion, and often leavened with humor. Many capture the beauty and mystery of every day life. Some of my favorites include: Bread, In Gratitude; Near Sunskai, Lithuania; Watching a Day; the Western Felt Works, Leaving Kaunas, 1944, and Sideways Down Rapids.  

Also worth a look in earlier books: Love in the Classroom, The Zen of Housework, Nothing to do—Nowhere to go, The Way He’d Like it, Running down Summit Avenue in Saint Paul in a Heavy Snowfall, and Living with Others.

Al was born in Austria of Lithuanian parents in 1945. They had fled the Soviet advance and survived bombing raids in Berlin. His parents became part of the wave of 11 million displaced people (DP) after the war. His father had been an attorney and one of his grandfathers signed the Lithuanian Declaration of Independence in 1918. As refugees they were refused entry to the US, where you had to have a sponsor, a place to live, and a guarantee that you would not displace American workers or, better yet, a related American citizen. 

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Jonas Mekas and John F. Kennedy’s Camera

Jackie Kennedy at her home, 1970 . In: A dance with Fred Astaire / Jonas Mekas ; [edited by Johan Kugelberg, Jonas Mekas, and Sebastian Mekas]. – New York : Anthology Editions, 2017, p. 318.

Jonas Mekas:

Jackie Kennedy was one of the most special women I was privileged to know in my life. I do not mean her position in society: I mean her intelligence, a very special intelligence with a deep sensitivity, and her elegance, her style, her generosity, her simple, straight, magic human quality. I could go on and on.

[…]

This event took place the very first time I visited Jackie in her Fifth Avenue home. Somehow the talk turned to John F. Kennedy and movies. You know,” Jackie said, just a few months before he died somebody gave him as a present a little 8mm movie camera. He always carried it in the pocket of his raincoat. You know, as I am thinking now, it must still be there.

She went to the closet and found a beige raincoat and there it was! In the raincoat pocket there was a small 8mm movie camera! She brought it to me. I regret I do not remember now the brand of the camera.

He did some filming. But he never finished the roll. It’s still in the camera,” she said.

She put the camera back into the pocket of the raincoat.[1]


[1]A dance with Fred Astaire / Jonas Mekas ; [edited by Johan Kugelberg, Jonas Mekas, and Sebastian Mekas]. – New York : Anthology Editions, 2017, p. 319

Reinforcing the Field of Cultural Diplomacy

On January 22, 2019 Jurgis Giedrys, former cultural attaché of the Republic of Lithuania to Ukraine, visited the National Library of Lithuania. During the meeting with the representatives of Library, Mr. Giedrys donated numerous documents, booklets and books which he collected during his term in Ukraine, from 2015 to 2018.

More than 200 events were organized in Ukraine during Mr. Giedrys’ fouryear term of office. People of Ukraine met with more than 700 Lithuanian artists. Events were advertised and written about by over 400 traditional or e-media outlets, as well as social media. The events dedicated to Lithuania and Lithuanian themes attracted more than 100,000 people.

The National Library of Lithuania has been increasing its activities in cultural diplomacy. It promotes the dissemination of Lithuanian culture abroad, supports the efforts of foreign embassies, cultural centers and institutes in Lithuania to present projects reflecting the world’s cultural diversity. The Library carries out its exclusive mission by collecting the Lithuanian documentary heritage created abroad.

Book “Invented in Lithuania: Things, Ideas, and People”

When did the first invention take place in Lithuania? Did Lithuanians have their own Thomas Edison? Why one magazine called the transatlantic flight performed by Darius and Girėnas a technical invention? Has anything changed in the world of inventions after Lithuania’s Independence in 1990s? What inventions do Lithuanians are famous for today? To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the restored Lithuania and the 90th anniversary of the Republic of Lithuania Patent Law (passed on 14 May 1928), the monograph about inventions invented by Lithuanians was published in 2018. The book written by six historians tells a story about Lithuanian inventors and inventions—from pagan times and tribal Baltic society to the present day. The book also contains a chapter written by Dr. Giedrė Milerytė-Japertienė on inventions of Lithuanian scientists who lived and worked in exile.

Two books on Lithuanian-American Contribution to Lithuania’s Independence

This year, two capital books about Lithuanian-American contribution to Lithuania’s statehood and independence were published in Lithuania.

The first book, Long Live Lithuania! Lithuanian American Contribution to Lithuania’s Statehood is a compilation of documents, discussions, articles, correspondence and comments of various US governmental institutions and Lithuanian-American Community, Inc. related to the long-standing efforts by Lithuanian-Americans to fight for Lithuania’s freedom. The compiler of the book, Regina Narusis, JD, the chairman of the Royal Palace Restoration Committee for the USA and along-time chairman of Lithuanian-American Community, Inc. and World Lithuanian Community, hopes that the new book will contribute to a better understanding of Lithuanian-American input into the restoration and consolidation of Lithuania’s statehood from the late 19th century to the present day.

The second book, Lithuanian American Support for Lithuania 1918-2018 by prof. Juozas Skirius, based on archival documents, periodicals, memoirs and other sources, sheds light on the activities of Lithuanian-Americans from 1918 to 2018. The author distinguishes three main periods, during which Lithuanian immigrants in the US have provided financial, political, informational and cultural support to their compatriots in the homeland and Lithuanian state. They defended Lithuania’s independence and made efforts to liberate Lithuanian nation from multiple occupations.The book also discusses the activities of Lithuanian-American charity organizations and their attempts to provide financial support to Lithuania and its people.

War, Revolution and Nation-Making in Lithuania, 1914-1923

On September 26, 2018, the National Library of Lithuania hosted a book presentation. The book, War, Revolution and Nation-Making in Lithuania, 1914-1923 by Tomas Balkelis was published by Oxford University Press in 2018.

The book analyzes one of the most important periods in Lithuanian history. The author explores how the Lithuanianstate was created and shaped by the Great War and its aftermath. In doing so, he approaches the Lithuanian conflict through the lens of real people, such asrefugees, veterans, volunteers, peasant conscripts, POWs, and paramilitary fighters. The book also shows the impact the war had on the Lithuanian nation,not simply during the war, but for decades after the conflict subsided and addresses a crucial formative period in the history of the Baltic region, using Lithuania as a lens through which to view the larger East European landscape.

Dr. Tomas Balkelis defended his Ph.D. atthe University of Toronto in 2004. For several years, he worked at the Universityof Manchester, University of Nottingham, University of Dublin and Vilnius University. In 2015-2016, he was a visiting researcher at Stanford University (US). Currently, Dr. Balkelis works at the Institute of Lithuanian History. His first book, The Making of Modern Lithuania (Routledge, 2009) argued that, contrary to contemporary Lithuanian nationalist rhetoric, Lithuanian nationalism was modern and socially constructed in the period from the emergence of the Lithuanian national movement in the late nineteenth century to the birth of an independent state in 1918.