This first US publication of Knuts Skujenieks—one of Latvia’s foremost contemporary poets—is the author’s most important and widely-translated body of work. Convicted in 1962 of anti-Soviet sentiment, Skujenieks wrote these poems during seven years of imprisonment at a labor camp in Mordovia. Presented bilingually in English and Latvian, this vivid and expressive collection overcomes the physical experience of confinement in order to assert a limitless creative freedom.
“Although Skujenieks’s poetry has been translated into more than thirty languages, this is the first collection in English. The selection is centered on the years [he was imprisoned] in Mordovia. The poems are highly diverse in style, tone, and motif, but throughout, despite a sometimes dark worldview, an irrepressible spirit keeps breaking through. He shows emotion and man’s engagement with others and with the world around him in voices other than his own, both human and taken from nature: voices as varied as that of the biblical Jacob, the poet Vallejo, a road, and a snowflake. He creates a sense of universality by conflating eras and events.”
—Bitite Vinklers, from the Introduction
A Love Poem
I would like clarity. To exclude
A relationship's tangled yarn.
Not a word.
Let reaction suffice.
So. Only so. And if the two of us
Are pitched alone against the world,
That we can instantly swing about
And stand back to back.
Would that be too much?
But a poem cannot be written
If one awaits the bullet
From the back,
And not from the front.
© BOA Editions, Ltd. 2016