The Sea in the Poetry of Judita Vaičiūnaitė and Vizma Belševica

  • Inga Stepukonienė
Keywords: poetry, Judita Vaičiūnaitė, Vizma Belševica, sea, water


The lyrical poetry of Judita Vaičiūnaitė (Lithuania) and Vizma Belševica (Latvia), modern poetesses of the second half of the twentieth century, vividly reflects the realities of urban culture. However, the centre of their lyricism, the woman, is projected not only in the urban environment, but also in nature. The four mythological elements (water, air, earth, and fire) are given special powers and are highly important in both Belševica’s and Vaičiūnaitė’s work. Water in their lyrical poetry becomes an inexhaustible source of spiritual and stylistic variations. In the poetry of Vaičiūnaitė and Belševica, the sea is not a metaphor for harmony, but for anxiety, which contrasts with the representation of earth, sky, and clouds. These elements are often opposed to water paradigms like lakes, rivers, rain, snow or frost, which hide mysterious worlds. The representation of the sea is rather controversial: the overall image is shaped from a multitude of different impulses and impressions that arise from different situations of life. One of the most typical lyrical themes in Vaičiūnaitė’s and Belševica’s work is the past and remembrance of things, people, events, and phenomena. They reflect on the existence of prominent past personalities by representing their vivid images; the reader can feel the spiritual motion and projection of dynamic actions into the future. Meanwhile, memories related to the realm of water often project passiveness. The poetry of Vaičiūnaitė and Belševica reflects a strong symbolic link between the sea and the woman. The lyrical “I”, like the sea, is silent, deep, mysterious and, at the same time, turbulent. The sea also embodies the feeling of global insecurity. The seabed metaphorically represents the threshold between the safe and the dangerous states of a woman, separating the complex world of earth from the inscrutable water world, which may instantly transform the woman’s status. The sea also implies the seme of purity and purgation, the axis of morality and value as discussed by Bachelard. Purity is one of the main value-determining categories, inseparable from the self-awareness of the lyrical “I”, which stands in opposition to the other. In their experience of nature, they share the same motif of “motherly water”. It is not by chance that the poetry of Vaičiūnaitė and Belševica merges the elements of the sea world and reality – images of love appearing in the subconscious of the subject are directed to “the shelter creature, the nourishment creature symbolic of the mother”. This semantics of the sea brings together the poetry of the two Baltic poets.