Tomas Venclova was born in Klaipeda just before World War II. He began publishing
poems while still in his teens. On graduating Vilnius University, he stayed on
to teach there. Because of his outspoken membership in Lithuanian Helsinki Group
which monitored Soviet violations of human rights in Lithuania, Venclova was threatened
with a number of sanctions, but finally was allowed to emigrate. He has since
settled in the United States and is currently teaching at Yale. Although a widely
published poet, Venclova is not very prolific. Sign of Speech was the only volume
of his poetry published in Lithuania, prior to his leaving the country in 1977.
Two more books consisting of poems and translations have appeared in the United
States, along with a volume of polemical essays which reflect his involvement
in dissident politics. A retrospective collection of his poems was published in
Vilnius in 1992. Venclova's spirited re-engagement with the modes and subjects
of a cosmopolitan classical tradition has influenced a substantial generation
of Lithuanian poets. His dry witty style is marked by a highly controlled irony
which holds out an effective resilience against the bleak eventuality of his appraisals.
By the necessarily high-contrast backlight of historical consciousness, his understatement
is luminously Audenesque. Venclova is a vigorous essayist and has published articles
in English and Polish, as well as Lithuanian, on cultural and political topics.
His extensive and highly original study, Aleksander Wat (Yale, New Haven), was
published in 1996.