Sunday, April 1, 2007

Janis Baltvilks

The poet I most wanted to meet in Latvia was Janis Baltvilks. I had been asking about nature poets, and everyone I asked mentioned Baltvilks. He was an ornithologist, edited a birding publication for young birders, and wrote short, compact, haiku like poems, many featuring birds, especially storks. I asked Janis Elsbergs to invite Baltvilks to my poetry reading in Riga. We did not know if he would be able to come, as he was recovering from serious axe wounds received when a friend lost control and attacked him.. Baltvilks did come to the reading. I was reading in English, and Ingmara was reading the poems in Latvian. In the middle of the reading I read several Baltvilks poems, and Ingmara read them in Latvian i watched a smile light up his face.

I suggested that we do a book of his poems in English, from Blackberry Press. Rita Laima Berzins translated the poems from Latvian to English, and I published a bilingual edition of his poems, Called The Skylark Will Come (Blackberry Books, 2004, 112 pages, $13.95)

Here are several poems from that book:

Forests, forests.
Bodies of water.
The church's reflection in the lake.

How gently,
how deeply
I am rooted here


At the end of a sultry day
a bitterish fog above the meadowsweet:
poetry that mends and heals


Warm mist
after a summer shower

How I love
this life!

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