Jaunā Gaita nr. 112, 1977

JG 112

When discussing translation, it is customary to quote John Dryden's thesis that the translation of poetry into poetry is an act of sympathy--the identification of another person with oneself, the transference of utterance into one's own utterance" And, continues Kenneth Rexroth, "the ideal translator is not engaged in matching the words of a text with the words of his own language. He is hardly even a proxy, but rather an all out advocate. His job is one of the most extreme examples of special pleading, So the prime criterion of successful poetic translation is assimilability."

In addition to publishing the latest work of Latvian poets, JG has over the years devoted special sections to modern poetry of other nations, including Lithuanian, Estonian, German, Russian, Swedish, Swiss, and Icelandic. Many of the best Latvian poets writing today have contributed translations, and -- to quote Aina Kraujiete--"overcoming the language barrier, projected the souls of other nations as on a screen, so that by comparing we see much that is new, even strange, but also note many similarities among various nations." The section on 20th century American poetry in this issue is one of the longest and most comprehensive ever attempted by JG, ranging from the giants of the earlier part o this century to contemporary experimental poets. Included are Ezra Pound, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, and Marianne Moore, as well as E.E. Cummings, Wallace Stevens, and Theodore Roethke; contemporary "greats," such as Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop; other well-known contemporary poets, including Gary Snyder, John Ashbery, W.S. Mervin, Denise Levertov, and James Merill; as well as lesser known names such as Richard Shelton, Turner Cassity, Ira Sadoff, John Knoepfle, Denis Dunn, Diane Wakoski, and Harold Dull. Aina Kraujiete has done the lion's share of translating, with honors also due to Astrīde Ivaska (Lowell, Bishop, Ashbery, Snyder), Ieva Prīmane (Stevens), Jānis Krēsliņš (Pound), and Gunars Saliņš (Frost).

Kraujiete also contributes brief biographies of ten of the best-known poets, as well as an introductory essay, "Poetry is Dead; Long Live Poetry," After a general over-view of modern American poetry, Kraujiete devotes more detailed attention to "revolutionary" movements, such as those instigated by Pound or, more recently, Ferlinghetti, and such modern trends and experiments as open poetry of survival, poetry of changes, confessional poetry, concrete poetry, language happenings, and found poetry.

Latvian poetry in this issue includes selections from two young poets living in the west, Lolita Gulbe and Uldis Sprūdžs, and from two of the best poets writing in Latvia today, Imants Auziņš and Māris Caklais.

Dr. Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, professor of psychology, is probably best known to the Latvian public for her research and publications on Latvian folklore and folk poetry (see also her article, "Latvian Identity in Exile, JG 100-101). Recently, she has become the center of controversy because of her objective, scrupulously honest -- and, consequently, sometimes unsparing -- assessments of the meaning and means of preserving ethnic identity in exile. Apparently it is impossible to express rational opinions without stepping on a few abnormally sensitive toes, and too many people are unwilling to listen to Poincaré's plea that thought which is subject to passion or dogma is unworthy of being called thought. In her current article, "The Psychology of Exile," Freiberga differentiates between refugee, exile, and émigré, contrasting the psychological problems of each, and also noting that the generation born outside Latvia can fall in neither category. The circumstances of being part of a Latvian subculture abroad are not ideal for the preservation of ethnic and cultural identity, and therefore require the formulation of rational strategies suitable to current circumstances, not conditions 30 or 40 years ago. Unfortunately, many are unwilling, unable, or too rigid and afraid to admit this:

Freiberga then turns to detailed analysis of the psychological factors that shape exile mentality. Freiberga does not pretend to have facile solutions to extremely complex problems; nevertheless, she firmly believes that exile society need not become psychologically unhealthy and conflict ridden, and that possibilities for survival, growth, and creative development are possible.

Laimonis Mieriņš surveys the art scene in Latvia during 1975, noting that the year, although relatively quiet, was anything but dull, and that many interesting new trends testify to the continuing vitality of Latvian art and artists. The most exciting developments have been in ceramics and ceramic sculpture, which have broken free of all old conventions and become free and dynamic. Exciting things are also happening in jewellery design, stained glass,and tapestry, The art of the poster is still in a developmental stage, while painting and sculpture, in spite of much skill and talent, remain rather conservative.

Andrievs Ezergailis interviews author Modris Zeberiņš, whose work has been quite visible in recent issues of JG. Zeberiņš talks the same way as he writes; one is tempted to describe both as - magnificent chaos... His agile mind leaps over a fantastic range of references to literature, art, music, philosophy, and trivia. Included is also an exerpt from Zeberiņš' essay on poet VeltaToma and her place in Latvian literature. In the course of an extravagantly admiring tribute to Toma's poetry, Zeberiņš exclaims: Death, where is thy sting? Hell, where is thy victory? And then, in a Zeberiņ-esque aside, mentions that in Toma's opinion, he really does not understand her work at all...

The cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters.


Ilze Šedrika-Levis

Jaunā Gaita