Professor Emeritus Nominated for a Lithuanian National Prize

Former Sacred Heart University (SHU) English professor, now a professor emeritus and poet-in-residence, Jonas Zdanys, has been nominated for the Lithuanian National Prize in Culture & the Arts by the Lithuanian Writers’ Society.

The award that Zdanys will be given if he makes the final list in December has been given annually since 1989 on Feb. 16. This award began to commemorate the Act of 1918 which declared Lithuanian independence from the Russian Empire.

Over the years there have been 156 winners. The award used to have nine categories and now continues with six in the present day. The prize is a fluctuating amount of Euros.

Zdanys, a bilingual writer of English and Lithuanian, has published 56 books and translated over 22 books from Lithuanian to English over the past 50 years. His most recent book “The Mirror at the Top of the Stairs” was published in July.

“I am a bilingual poet and have published volumes of my poetry that I have written in English or Lithuanian. As you know, the structure of language shapes the structure of thought, so I write in Lithuanian when I am interested in considering and presenting ideas that might be linked to a more chaotic consciousness, and I write in English when I seek to frame the world more tightly,” said Zdanys.

“Lithuanian is an inflectional language, which means that word order is in a poetic line, and a poetic line or sentence does not determine meaning,” said Zdanys. “English is a

syntactical/analytical language, which means that word order and particularly the placement of prepositional phrases determines meaning; it requires a more logical and, I suggest, more controlled and managed unfolding of ideas and metaphors.”

Some of his notable works include “The Angled Road,” “Three White Horses,” “Contemporary Surrealists” and “Magical Realist Poetry: An International Anthology.”

“It is that idea of creation that motivated me to put together one of my recent books: ‘Contemporary Surrealist and Magical Realist Poetry; an International Anthology.’ I include work by 130 poets from 25 countries in that book. In my introduction to that anthology, I write about the role of the lyric imagination in the creation of poetry,” said Zdanys.

Zdanys was hired in 2009 and spent 13 years at SHU, and was granted named as a professor emertitus, meaning he is retired but retains the honorary title of this position. During his time at SHU, he enjoyed teaching students and future writers to use imagination and creativity to create and write stories.

“I tell my students, and all beginning writers, whenever I give poetry readings in this country and Lithuania, not to write about what they know but rather to use their imaginations to write about what they do not know, so they can therefore, imagine,” said Zdanys.

“My books tend to explore what I can imagine, not what I have lived through,” said Zdanys. “For example, my recent book ‘Three White Horses’ is a collection of 80 linked poems whose narrator is not

me, but rather someone who may be alive or dead. It is a created/imagined narrator and a created/imagined world.”

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