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Review: Six Latvian Poets, ed. Ieva Lesinska

It is this contrast of the one and the many that lies beneath the prefatory remarks to another anthology. Six Latvian Poets, in this fine series of New Voices from Europe and Beyond. In her preface the series editor, Alexandra Buchler, refers to translation as the outcome of a dialogue between two cultures, languages and different poetic sensibilities, a dialogue between collective as well as individual imaginations, conducted by two voices, that of the poet and of the translator, and joined by a third interlocutor in the process of reading.

Introducing this anthology of contemporary Latvian poets the editor, leva Lesinska, places the background picture with clarity:

An overt engagement with history or social issues is almost totally absent from their work - perhaps because of an instinctive fear that the weight of history may turn out to be too much bear and may squash their own creativity, perhaps because of a desire to place themselves in the broader context of world literature or simply because of a youthful opposition to their predecessors

This sense of the personal voice that rings with an awareness of life's complexities and sadnesses, a world of ambiguities and sheer joy, is perfectly heard in Anna Auzina's contemplation of the self and the other:

I would like to be alone
living in a house ancient and large
so that no one is around
only plenty of things
and I would stuff cotton into the cracks
and each guest would come single
the door would stay open
everything would be dozing abandoned
so old pleasant and worn
sun wind would come to me through the windows
perhaps I might have
a baby or a pet to look after
and just like a flying insect I'd buzz
through the house ancient and large
which I'd wish my soul would be like
and for guests to come seldom and single


Breakfast in the Clouds

This voice from the post-Soviet years sings of individualism in both form and content and it welcomes the reader in a manner that is both traditional in the use of metaphor and new in its fresh magnanimity.