New English translations of Latvian poets


2019, February 12

New English translations of Latvian poets

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Four Latvian poets whose works have been translated into English and published in the UK and Canada offer their perspectives on love, life, patience, and resistance.

Arvis Viguls’ “The shop stewards were taking the necklaces”, translated by Jayde Will, is one of the fifty-six works featured in “The Emma Press Anthology of Love” illustrated by Emma Wright. The main theme of the book is the diverse experiences of modern romance — often awkward and never perfect. “Romantic encounters and relationships are rooted in our own contemporary world of Tinder, Twitter and TV dinners. But they are also part of an enduring tradition: the cornerstone of our common humanity,” The Emma Press writes.

Canadian Guernica Editions has published Knuts Skujenieks’ collection of poems “All I Have Is Words” translated by Margita Gailitis. The collection consists of poems written during seven years of the author spent in the Gulag from 1962 to 1969. Skujenieks explains: “For various reasons, but particularly due to political censorship, my poetry written in prison was published as a collection only in 1990. I myself, following several rejections by publishers, was not in a hurry to go public with the poems from those years, wanting my imprisonment experience to speak with a more mature and deeper voice. In the introduction to the first of the several books now published I wrote that I have been unwilling to make claims of uniqueness for my life's most difficult period - those seven years of imprisonment. That which for me personally was a tragic exceptional experience, for my people was a horrific historical norm.”

Parthian Books has come out with Madara Gruntmane’s poetry collection “Narcoses” (translated by Mārta Ziemelis and Richard O’Brien), and Eduards Aivars’ collection of poems “Phenomena” (translated by Jayde Will) as part of Parthian Baltic series that consists of first-time English translations of a variety of Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian poets.

Gruntmane’s “Narcoses” investigates and celebrates the many facets of what it means to be female. It is “a collection of fresh, powerfully feminine and open poetry, never derivative or contrived, but inspired by Gruntmane’s direct and honest personal experience. Full of life and love, joy and pain, “Narcoses” is written with keen psychological insight and a courageous amount of self-awareness, to establish an intimacy and trust between poet and reader,” as introduced by Parthian Books. 

Eduards Aivars’ “Phenomena” could be seen as a form of response to existential questions regarding the human condition and mundanity of the everyday. In this witty, reflective and unique collection, the author talks about people, love, the life of a poet, and raises such topics as the sadness amongst strangers in public spaces, thoughts and reflections on the process of aging and death, and fascinating religious musings.