The Range of Your Amazing Nothing

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Lina ramona Vitkauskas asks, and her collection stands as an intrepid answer, the question as to why haute couture, avant-garde and post avant-garde cinema, Derrida, and marine life should be at odds, offering her reader startling juxtapositions vis a vis an unmistakable voice that sounds out as often as it retracts in the act of listening.

Lina ramona Vitkauskas’ poetic persona is one of, as the title alludes, dizzying range, as are the poems themselves in The Range of Your Amazing Nothing; one recurring theme and also the title of one of the strongest poems is the “execution of lively girls.” From the poem titled same: “ . . . the men in white have a hunch/ for girls like you:/ unfamiliar understudies of existence.”

At times the speaker’s perspective is that of someone trying to deconstruct a lively girl, and the speaker is the first to laugh at their confusion. “Poised like a mathematician/ upon sleeves of papyrus,/ my god, every bit of you is vicarious,/ I have been this quilt of crushed,/ radium smiles before.” The pun on the poet’s last name and vicarious, whether intentional or not, is an entertaining way the wide-ranging speaker infuses her protean “I” with personally-felt substance. The motif of this poem—the unalienable agency of male actors (and men) as contrasted with the bit parts often given to lively women in film—makes the “brutal chrysalis of identity” of which the poet speaks that much more profound. While the rich imagery can at times overpower, the poet’s frequent use of italics and the abundant intertexual references help guide the reader to through the thicket of signification into lodestars of meaning.

From “Bird Into Building”:

She is certain to have recalled
winter’s nunnery, her tongue
from previous ecstasy releases

thoughts like little hats
all of her sick hero moments,
in an enclave of economies.

References to Vitkauskas’s Lithuanian heritage appears amid so many other cultural references as to suggest that the myth-making of this debut collection is more about identity formation on the cosmic (even Vedic or Gnostic) rather than nationalistic level, as the speaker searches for elements of language (“Crying hieroglyphs,/ arrogant from the bake/ of lifeless theatres”) still capable of communication.

“My Retinal Detachment” alludes to Vitkauskas’ multiple eye surgeries beginning in 1996 to correct a degenerative optical condition: the thin line between dread and fearlessness is palpable, and the acute tension between “being sighted” and being capable of the act of seeing (versus looking, or being seen), sensed throughout.

I’ve made the bed three times
and replaced my eye with a better voice.
Sotto voce. I’ve never been outside . . .
Even de Leon can’t locate the theatre of my fountain.
I am not afraid that this sounds.

The poet asks, and her collection stands as an intrepid answer, the question as to why haute couture, avant-garde and post avant-garde cinema, Derrida, and marine life should be at odds, offering her reader startling juxtapositions vis a vis an unmistakable voice that sounds out as often as it retracts in the act of listening. From Kidnapping Brides: “ . . . since the bias-cut/ has come back, since the/ hypothetical dossier rendered/ me the interpreter, since the/ premise shifts, since energy/ cannot be created nor employed,/ since my money is no good here,/ since I’m falling/ so gracefully.”

Plathian in her wry ecstasies, generous in her nods to poet-predecessors (among the collection’s quietly lyrical poems is a five-line homage to Szymborska) and sensitive to the implications, often dangerous, and joys, often overlooked, of postmodern discourse, Vitauskas’ debut collection is a veritable treasure-trove of sonic intensity issued from a sleuth-like intelligence, “cracking parallelograms/ on the linear beach blanket,/ bending blonde participles. This is a jar like a lottery./ Like my first Dramamine pie.”


Virginia Konchan’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Best New Poets 2011, the Believer, and The New Republic, among other places. A recipient of fellowships to the Vermont Studio Center, Ox Bow, and Scuola Internazionale di Grafica, she lives in Chicago, where she is a doctoral student in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. More from this author →