J.C. Todd's To Be the Roots

The Butterfly's Apology by Māris Salējs

Statements on poetry by:

Edvīns Raups

Knuts Skujenieks

Photo of Vizma Belševica by Margita Gutmane

Photos of J.C. Todd,Māris Salējs, Kārlis Vērdiņš, by Rebecca Seiferle

All other Latvian poet photos courtesy of the Latvian Writer's Union.

Fall/Winter 2005: Latvian Feature: Poets

Edited by J.C. Todd and Margita Gailitis

Notes prepared by Jānis Elsbergs, Margita Gailitis, J. C. Todd

Aivars Eduards Aivars (b. 1956) Poet and essayist, he has published five volumes of poetry. The most recent volume received the Latvian Poetry Prize (2002). He uses his pen name when publishing poetry, and his birth name, Aivars Eipurs, for his work as therapist in the Minnesota program for drug and alcohol counseling.

Amanda Aizpuriete (b. 1956) Widely published poet and translator. Since 1980, she has published 8 books of poetry and one novel in Latvian, with books published in translation in Sweden and Germany. Her poetry and prose has been published in anthologies in Scandinavia, the Baltics, Iceland, France, Germany, Russia, Canada and U.S.A. Eric Funk has composed a symphony with text from her “This Eventide Seems Spoiled.” She has translated Georg Trakl, Joseph Brodsky, Virginia Woolf, Ken Kesey and John Updike. She received the prestigious Horst Bienek Prize from the Bavaria Academy of Art (1999); the Latvian Poetry Prize (2000) for Bābeles nomalē (Outskirts of Babel); the Latvian Book Prize (2003) for translations of Anna Akhmatova.

Belševica Vizma Belševica (b. 1931; d. 2005) has seven volumes of poetry, and numerous awards in Latvia, including the Ojārs Vācietis Award (1988), the Order of the Three Stars (1995), and the Cultural Ministry Award for Life Achievement in Literature (1997). Her Swedish awards include the Einar Forseth Foundation Award (1992) and Tomas Transtromer Award (1998).

Bērziņš Uldis Bērziņš (b.1944) Prolific translator and poet. His first poems appeared in 1963 but the first of his six volumes did not appear until the 1980s. His poetry has been translated into French, Swedish, Estonian, Lithuanian, Russian and other languages. A polyglot, he has translated poems for many languages, including Turkish, Persian, Spanish, English, Polish, Swedish, Russian and Old Icelandic. His current project is translation of the Koran and the Old Testament from Hebrew and Arabic into Latvian. His awards include the Literary Award of the Baltic Assembly (1995) and Order of the Three Stars (1995).

Leons Briedis Leons Briedis (b. 1949) Founding publisher and editor of the Latvian philosophical journal, Kentaurs XXI (Centaur XXI) and Minerva, Ltd. publishing house, he has published almost 20 volumes of poetry. He writes for both adults and children and translates from Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Catalonian, Latin, Swahili, Russian, English and others. His international literary prizes include one from the Writers' Union of Romania (1991) and the Order of the Three Stars from Latvia (1999).

Ronalds Briedis Ronalds Briedis (b. 1980) Poet and critic, he has published one volume of poetry (2004) which received the best poetic debut award. He manages literary projects for the Writers' Union of Latvia.

Jānis Elsbergs Jānis Elsbergs (b. 1969) Poet and translator, his first two volumes were published under the pen name Jānis Ramba. Translator of Shakespeare's Cymbeline, Harold Pinter, Arthur Miller, Kurt Vonnegut, Walt Whitman, Charles Bukowski and American Beat poets such as Gregory Corso and Gary Snyder. His book, Rīta kafija (Morning Coffee)(1996) shows the Beat influence. He has been co-editor of major Latvian literary journals, including Karogs and Luna and head of the Young Authors' Association.

Klāvs Elsbergs Klāvs Elsbergs (b.1959; d. 1987) Poet and translator, he published two volumes of his poetry and one was published posthumously. A major translator of French poetry including a collection of poems by Guillaume Apollinaire. A leading poet of his generation, he was one of the founding editors of Avots, an influential intellectual monthly that introduced avant garde and politically charged subjects during the period of Glasnost.

Inga Gaile Inga Gaile (b.1976) Winner of the Klāvs Elsbergs First Book Award (1999) and the Ojārs Vācietis Award (2004) for her second volume. She also translates from Russian the poetry of the Riga-based Orbita group.

Astrīde Ivaska Astrīde Ivaska (b. 1926) Poet and professor. Author of 6 volumes of poetry in Latvian, she recently returned to Latvia after many years abroad. In the United States she taught at Oklahoma University and St. Olaf's College and was a reviewer for World Literature Today. Inara Cedrins' English translations of Ivaska's selected poetry appeared in two volumes in the US.

Juris Kronbergs Juris Kronbergs (b. 1946) Born in Sweden of Latvian parents, he is an important figure in Latvian poetry and actively promotes Latvian literature in Sweden, translating dainas (folksongs), and Belševica, Skujenieks, Ziedonis and others authors into Swedish. First published in the mid-1960s, his recent collection Vilks vienacis (Wolf One-Eye) was published bilingually in Latvian and Swedish. His awards include the Ojārs Vācietis award (1988) and the Order of the Three Stars (1998).

Liāna Langa Liāna Langa (b. 1960) Former director of the Latvian National Council of Culture, she began to publish in 1988, winning Latvian National Literary Awards for two books, Te debesis, te ciparnīca (NowHeaven, Now an Hourglass) (1997) and Iepūt taurītē, Skorpion! (BlowYour Horn, Scorpion!, 2001). She translates from Russian and English and has studied literature at the New School in New York. Her legal name is Liāna Bokša.

Edvīns Raups Edvīns Raups (b. 1962) Poetry editor of the cultural weekly, Kultūras Forums, he has published four volumes of poetry in Latvia and translated many Latin American and Spanish authors. First published in 1986, his awards include the Klāvs Elsbergs First Book Award (1991) and the Rainis and Aspazija Foundation Prize (1995), the Fortech Literature Award (1998) and the “Preses nams” Award for his fourth collection, Uzvāri man kaut ko pārejošu (Cook Up Something Transitory for Me). His poetry is widely translated. His birth name is Edvīns Struka.

Rokpelnis Jānis Rokpelnis (b. 1945) Poet, essayist and script writer. First published in 1968, he has subsequently won the Baltic Assembly Literary Prize (2000) and the Aleksandars Čaks Award (2001). His work has been translated into more than 20 languages, and he translates primarily from Russian. Formerly a Senior Research Associate at the Riga Museum of Art, he has been an editor of several periodicals, including Karogs. Currently he is writing a biography of Knuts Skujenieks.

Salējs Māris Salējs (b. 1971) A poet, critic and translator, primarily from Polish, Ukrainian and Russian, he was first published in 1994. His awards include the Anna Dagda Award (2001) for his second volume of poetry. An editor at Luna, a literary journal, and co-editor for the Latvian feature in Howling Dog Press internet journal, Omega, he is a librarian at the Academy of Culture in Riga. His birth name is Marians Rižijs.

Skujenieks Knuts Skujenieks (b. 1936) A poet and translator, he is considered one of the finest Latvian poets. In 1962 in Soviet-Latvia, he was sentenced to seven years in a hard labor camp in Mordova, Russia for high treason, a charge resulting from meetings with other young dissident intellectuals. Although he began writing poetry as early as the 1950s, his books did not appear until 1978 and poems written in the labor camp were published in the 1990s, after Latvian independence. His eight-volume collected works is published by Nordik Publishers. He translates from many languages, including the folksongs of most European countries. Among his numerous awards are the Tomas Transtromer Prize (Sweden, 1998), the Order of the Three Stars (Latvia, 1995) and for his translations, Commander of the Catholic Order of Isabel (Spain, 1994) and the Gedimino Order (Lithuania, 2001).

Kārlis Vērdiņš Kārlis Vērdiņš (b. 1979) Poet, critic and translator. He has published translations of William Carlos Williams, H. D., Virginia Woolf and T. S. Eliot. His two collections of poetry are Ledlauzi (Icebreakers) (2001) and Biezpiens ar krejumu (Cottage Cheese with Cream) (2004).

Māra Zālīte (b. 1952) Born in Siberia where her parents had been deported by the Soviets, she returned to Latvia in 1956. A poet, essayist, playwright, and librettist for opera and rock musicals, she has been editor-in-chief of Karogs and was the director of the National Language Commission in Latvia. She is presently president of the copyright agency AKKA/LAA. Her rock opera Lacplesis (Bearslayer) (1988) was one of the mobilizing forces in the “Singing Rebellion” that led to Latvia's renewed independence. Her awards include The Order of Three Stars (1995), the Mayakovsky Award (1982), the Aspazija Award (1992) and the Herder Award (Germany, 1993). Sun Stroke in the Dark, Margita Gailitis' English translation of Zālīte's selected poems, was recently published by Atena (2005).

Inese Zandere Inese Zandere (b. 1958) Poet, children's author and the editor of the monthly magazine, Rigas Laiks. Her 3 volumes of poetry include Melnās čūskas maiznica (The Black Snake's Bakery) which collects her poems from the past fifteen years; it received the Latvian Poetry Prize (2003).

Imants Ziedonis Imants Ziedonis (b. 1933) A prolific poet, his poetry is widely translated; Flowers of Ice, translated by Barry Callaghan, was published in Canada. He has published almost twenty volumes of poetry in Latvia. A formative thinker on Latvian culture, he writes non-fiction about rural Latvian life and culture as well as tales for children for which he received the Hans Christian Anderson Award (Denmark). Among his many awards is The Order of the Three Stars (1995). A deputy in the Latvian Parliament in the 1990s, he has held numerous significant cultural positions.

Zirnītis Pēteris Zirnītis (b. 1944; d. 2001) Poet, publisher, former Director of the Latvian Museum of Literature and Art History and Vice President of Latvian PEN. He has published seven volumes of poetry. As founding publisher of Nordik, he has focused on publishing translations of poetry.

Fall/Winter 2005: Latvian Feature: Translators

Co-Editor: Margita
Gailitis Margita Gailitis was born in Riga, Latvia, and is a writer, poet and translator. She left Latvia as a small child and after several years spent in displaced persons camps in Germany, immigrated with her mother and two sisters to Canada. She has travelled extensively and has lived for extended periods of time in the U.S., Jamaica, Italy and Spain. In 1998 she returned to Latvia to work at the Translation and Terminology Centre in Riga on a Canadian International Development Agency sponsored project translating Latvian laws into English— a prerequisite for Latvia's accession to the EU. Having spent her professional life in Canada working in advertising and marketing, she also assumed marketing and PR responsibilities for the Translation Centre. Now Margita Gailitis concentrates her efforts on literary translation and her poetry, which she writes in both Latvian and English. She has translated some of Latvia's finest poetry and prose and been instrumental in organizing publishing opportunities for Latvian writers in Canada, U.S., Spain and elsewhere. Her poetry has been published in various periodicals and has been awarded both Ontario and Canada Council grants. Her poems have been published in a book “Freedom Half Blind”.

Inguna Jansone (b. 1963) Poet and translator, her major translations include Edgar Allen Poe, Richard Brautigan and Fay Weldon. Her second poetry collection, Sampuns ar balzamu (Shampoo and Balsam), was awarded the Anna Dagda Award (1998).

Ieva Lešinska Ieva Lešinska (b.1958) is an editor, journalist, poet and translator living and working in Riga, Latvia. Once a culture editor for Radio Free Europe in Munich, since 1993 Ms. Lesinska has been on the editorial staff at the magazine Rigas Laiks and also holds a full-time position as English language editor at the central bank of Latvia. She has received special notice for her translations of Anglo American poets into Latvian, including T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, Allen Ginsberg's Kaddish, as well as selected poems by Robert Frost, Seamus Heaney, D. H. Lawrence, Ezra Pound, Dylan Thomas, and others. Her original poetry has appeared in Latvian periodicals and anthologies. She is currently working on a book of “documentary fiction”. In this issue, she has translated Berzins, Gaile, and Zandere.

Ilze Klavina-Mueller , a native of Latvia, divides her time between translation and poetry. Her translations of the work of Vizma Belševica include poems and selections from Belševica's memoir Bille, published in in The Review of Contemporary Fiction (Spring 1998). Her poems have appeared in Looking For Home: Women Writing About Exile, CALYX, Water~Stone and other journals. She is a member of The Laurel Writers Collective, a group of writers and graphic artists living in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area.

Rozītis Māra Rozītis (b. 1952) Born in Australia and currently living in Stockholm, she is an actress, theater director, playwright. She translates a number of Latvian poets into English, including Kronbergs and Belševica.

Inara Cedrins' first anthology of contemporary Latvian poetry was published by the University of Iowa Press in 1981; her chapbook of translations of the poetry of Astrid Ivask, At the Fallow's Edge, was a Small Press Book of the Month Club selection and went into a second edition. She previously edited an issue of the online magazine Omega featuring Latvian poets (accessible at www.howlingdogpress.com). Her poems, stories and translations from the Latvian have appeared in The North American Review, Chelsea, Prairie Schooner, The Portland Int'l. Review, The Ledge, The Minnesota Review, Translation/Columbia University, the Massachusetts Review, Kansas Quarterly, The Atlanta Review, New Letters and The Chariton Review, among others.

Co-Editor: J.C. Todd J.C. Todd's poems and translations have appeared in the anthology Shade 2004, and in The Paris Review, APR, RUNES, Crab Orchard Review and other journals as well as on-line in Verse Daily. Pine Press published her chapbooks: Nightshade (1995) and Entering Pisces (1985). Awards include a fellowship in poetry from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, two awards from The Leeway Foundation, a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts international artist exchange fellowship to the Schloss Wiepersdorf colony in Germany and a scholarship to the Baltic Center for Writers and Translators in Sweden. She has previously edited a feature on contemporary Lithuanian poetry for TDB and was guest poetry editor for the Summer 2005 issue of The Bucks Country Review. A lecturer in Creative Writing at Bryn Mawr College in the spring of 2006, she has an MFA from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.