While retaining the uniqueness of its spirit, SLS is constantly reinventing itself. Thus, in 2013, SLS Lithuania is expanding to become the SLS East-Central Europe program. Located in the heart of Europe, in the epicentre of the region's post-Soviet transition, and focused on the history and culture of the place as stringently as before, and offering an even greater degree of immersion in the the history and culture of this endlessly fascinating country, the program will also be bringing in some of the most interesting writers/poets/scholars/artists from other countries, such as Russia. The list of affiliated faculty you will find below is not yet complete, but it will give you the impression of the direction of the program's development. This is going to be an exciting, richly textured, one-of-a-kind program.
2011 Lithuania participant, Maggie Golston says,
“With knowledgeable, accessible and kind faculty and staff, SLS accommodates all levels of poets and scribes and creates a bridge between new writing and an old city…Having enrolled in numerous writing workshops at the undergraduate and graduate levels at several universities in the US, I can safely say that there is nothing like SLS's programs abroad for sparking new perceptions, inspirations and conversations in writing.”
SLS Lithuania 2013 will take place in Vilnius, a startlingly beautiful old city located in the very heart of Europe. Remarkable for the sheer richness and diversity of its historical, cultural, and literary heritage, the city has served as a source of inspiration, or been the safe haven and home to some of the major figures of Lithuanian, Russian, Slavic, and Yiddish literature and culture. In short, Vilnius -- and the beautiful land of Lithuania -- is the perfect, powerful and meaningful backdrop for the unique literary and cultural endeavor that is SLS.
Clearly separating Europe's East and West, past and present, the ancient city of Vilnius has served for centuries as the veritable fulcrum of the continent's crossroads. Its multi-layered and tumultuous past is reflected in the city’s ultimately eclectic, evanescent visual aspect, its pervasive melding of the baroque, gothic, neoclassic, and Soviet architecture, as well as the street and inner-courtyard layout in the heart of Old City area replicating that of an Eastern European shtetl. It is a place with a long, winding, oft-tragic past -- a powerful place, full of context and filled with echoing silences and the strong energy of desolation. As such, it is is a very important location for SLS: a country at the heart of Europe caught in a painstaking transition from the suffocating “Soviet” fold to the uncertainty of full-fledged European-ness. Yet it also is a fully alive place, full of heady energy. It is a city made of contradictions. One would be hard-pressed to think of a more inspiring city for a writer or an artist.
From a purely practical perspective, the city is compact and eminently “walk-able,” and it offers all of the conveniences of a major, global city, if at times with its own idiosyncratic twist.
In addition to intensive daytime workshops of the highest caliber, taught by leading North American and international writers, participants will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the living history of Vilnius, both through the in-depth and offbeat lectures and walking city tours with Vilnius’ leading historian, Laimonas Briedis.
Most importantly, in Vilnius one cannot help but become steeped in Lithuania’s – and indeed, East Europe’s -- Jewish history. Known as Yerushalayim D’Lita, Jerusalem of Lithuania, Vilna in Yiddish, Vilnius in Lithuanian, Wilno in Polish, served as the cultural and intellectual center of Jewish life before WWII. During the SLS and SLS-Jewish Lithuania programs there will be panels, probing lectures, open discussions, historical tours, and a Yiddish concert to both celebrate and pay witness to the capital of Litvaks.
All images copyright Julia Blaukopf.
SLS, in other words, as ever, offers the Lithuania program participants infinitely more than a mere change of scenery. Participants and faculty spend more time together outside of the classroom than in any other literary programs of its kind: the strangeness of the outside settings is the great equalizer, bringing together the faculty and the participants, from world renown to beginning writers, as they are lost jointly, as it were, in a “findable” context..
In Lithuania, participants will also get to meet and spend time with their peers from the literary and artistic local community; they will get to see the country “from within” – through the eyes of their Lithuanian counterparts. This is in keeping with the SLS position in the literary world, as a moveable platform of sorts, upon which the North American and the international literary communities meet.
SLS Lithuania celebrates the history of writers who lived, worked, and visited Vilnius, including 1980 Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz, Dostoyevsky, Stendhal, Chaim Grade, Joseph Brodsky, Avrom Sutskever, Mikhail Bakhtin, Napoleon (yes indeed: he was a great fabulist!), and many others.
Summers are short in this corner of Europe, which is why street life in Vilnius is lived to the hilt in July and August, when the days are long and the nights are short. Outdoor cafes, cozy courtyard bistros and cool cellar taprooms abound in Old Town -- prices are a lot lower than in the big-tourism hubs. And there are more winding streets, cobblestones, archways, bell towers, bridges, spires, steeples, and leafy parks with ancient oaks in Vilnius than you can aim a camera at. Come join us for the experience of a lifetime, a literary journey like no other.
Please feel free to direct any questions you may have to the SLS Lithuania Program Coordinator, Ann Ward.
Antanas Sileika - Fiction
Jose Manuel Prieto - Fiction
Jami Attenberg - Fiction
Dawn Raffel - Fiction
Eileen Myles - Poetry
Ariana Reines - Poetry
Glyn Maxwell - Poetry
Alex Halberstadt - Non Fiction
Andrew Miksys - Photography
Laimonas Briedis - Writing Vilnius
Jewish Lithuania - Menachem Kaiser
SLS WRITERS IN RESIDENCE AND GUESTS:
Karolis Gintaras Zukauskas
Kery Shawn Keys
More to be announced soon. Visit our faculty page for more information.