22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Valžhyna Mort

Portrait Valžhyna Mort
© Ali Ghandtschi

Valžhyna Mort was born in 1981 in Minsk in Belarus, but only learned Belarusian as a child following the collapse of the Soviet Union. She studied English Language and Literature at the Minsk State Linguistic University. She studied music with the goal of becoming a musician, and had started writing poetry at the age of 18. »When I stopped making music I was looking for another music, and that was the Belarusian language.« Her articulation and rhythm follow the music of her poems, the forms of which range from children’s songs to echoes of agitprop, and thereby bring the poems closer to music.

Her first collection of poems, »Ja tonen’kaja jak tvae vejki« (tr. I’m as Thin as Your Eyelashes) was published in Minsk in 2005. There followed in 2008 the collection »Factory of Tears« (Engl.), which contained, after a Swedish translation (2007), the original versions and English translations. They are poems by a wanderer between East and West, poems about landscapes and realities, poetic spaces and music, and, last but not least, the Belarusian language itself, in which her country’s upheavals are reflected: »this language doesn’t exist / it’s impossible to converse in it – / it hits you in the face immediately.« Valžhyna Mort’s expression is at times heavy with pathos, only to become gruff and direct; at times dreamy like a fairy tale, to then become laconic and succinct: »the principle of drawing in hair curlers / was the basis for the national lawnmower production – / and my first metaphor / which I chewed over in fury / as if I had swallowed a swan lake.« In addition to love poems, references to her childhood in the land of socialist realism and the question of national identity, she also gives impressions in her poetry of her travels within Europe and in America, of everyday life, and of death.

Valžhyna Mort has won, among other awards, the Prize of the International Literature Festival Kristal Vilenica in Slovenia in 2004, the Hubert-Burda-Prize for young Eastern European poetry in 2008 and was awarded a Lannan Foundation Fellowship in 2010. She produced in collaboration with Katharina Narbutovič a dossier on contemporary Belarusian poetry for the German literary journal »die horen« (issue 228, 4th quarter 2007). She also translates from Polish and English. Valžhyna Mort lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and teaches Poetry at Baltimore University.