Friday, 7 August 2020


Some years ago I took a Latvian visitor to some of the Wordsworth locations in Cumbria (she came through a local charity called 'Lithuanian Link').  In return she gave me an anthology of contemporary Latvian poetry in English, All Birds Know This (Tapals 2001).  So it was by chance that I discovered the work of the Latvian poet and translator, Juris Kronbergs, who has died recently at the age of 73.

I've been re-reading some of his poems this week. I've added 'Haymarket Hall' to my list of best shopping poems.  Here is a flavour from the market hall:

  'you could buy clotted curd, sprats and river lamprey
   light rye with caraway and heavy black bread
   musk melon minuets
   a mango tango, a kiwi twist
   light rye sings a nostalgic ballad
   about the homeland
   which unlike bread 
   cannot be sliced.' 

Kronbergs was born in 1946 and I suspect he knew a lot about sliced homelands.  'Time in Gotland' is a dialogue about the history of place names (and therefore political history) with a blind 90 year old woman.  The narrator explains
   'My parents came to Gotland at the beginning of 45 as refugees - in a fishing boat        from Liepaja' 

which he says was once called Libau ('the German name').  'Reval is called Talinn now.'  Königsberg is Kaliningrad [Russian].  The poem ends with the ironic
    'But Riga is still Riga, isn't it?'

'August Preludes' is a clutch of 6 micro-poems.  Here's number 4:
    'We're bound to the past
     Like autumn is to summer
     Like water to thirst.' 

(All quotations above translated by Mãra Rozitis)

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