Ojārs Vācietis brilliant and contradictory Latvian poet

Today is the birthday of prominent Latvian poet Ojārs Vācietis so we would like to tell some interesting things to you about him. “A great gift for a small nation”, this is how he was often regarded.

He is born on the 13th of November 1933 in Valka district. After graduating from high school he studied philology in the University of Latvia. He worked from 1958 as an editor in several Latvian magazines and newspapers such as  “Literatūra un Māksla” (“Literature and Art”)

His way of expression was poetry.

He lived most of his life in Soviet period, there was a time when he was a member of the Young Communist League and later also party. On one hand he believed in communist ideas on the other hand he suffered from censorship but in 1956 he learned about the crimes of communists in Hungary that changed him.

In the following years, more and more sharply, initially only through the prism of poetry he begins to criticize not the regime itself, but the realities of Soviet life circumstances, it has shortcomings that need to be addressed. He will join the Communist Party, and not to destroy it from within but to change and improve it. In 1962 he was attacked by official critics who claimed he had misrepresented Soviet reality, after that Ojārs Vācietis kept to himself and spent the largest part of his further life in a limited company. At the same time his poetry acquired philosophical qualities, today it would be considered mainstream but in 1960`s it was regarded as revolutionary.

He wrote through the voice of his conscience, that was often against the regime ideology, punishment was not being published for long periods but that didn`t influence his ways.

Eventualy his books reached hundreds of thousands of copies. He was called conscience of his epoch – a contradictory conscience. Reminiscences about him are very conflicting, because the truth is hidden in gossip and legends. The only thing we know for sure is that he got up early every day and wrote his poetry, leaving us with 10 volumes of fine, deep – felt and emotional rhymes.

Vācietis was always maximalist who denied midway. The poet regarded that one has to live “va banque” because if people lived “part time” society would be destroyed. Therefore he hated dilettantism.

He also had good sense of humor and understanding of sarcasm and those times reality – here is one situation in his life –

In 1959, in the Dubulti Creative House, the door of the room of the young, talented, promising poet Ojārs Vācietis was decorated for some time with the inscription “ At 11.00 the landlord left for Riga to fulfill his sacred duty as a Soviet citizen. The room can be temporarily nationalized, but please do not break the thermos or heat the fireplace with a tape recorder. ”

Here are some of his works – Elpa” (Breath, 1966), „Dzegužlaiks” (Time of the Cuckoo, 1968), „Aiz simtās slāpes” (After the Hundredth Thrist, 1969), „Si minors” (Si minor, 1982), „Punktiņš, punktiņš, komatiņš” (Dot, dot, coma, 1971), „Kabata” (Pocket, 1976).

He also did translations of poetry.

Ojārs Vācietis died on the 28th of November in 1983 just before his homeland would become free and regain its independence.

Here you can visit his museum in Riga and, museum web site if you speak Latvian language here is the video from his museum

There will be a flood

and we will flood over,
we, the boatless people,
will flood over
and will have to

And there will be no choice-
our wings will have to be fashioned
out of last years grey

You can fully rely
on such wings
made of reeds
that have grown in the land
you were born

They are good to tie your boat
to stop
a tank
to make a pipe
to whose tune
even the devil will dance

But the flood is upon
us – and we will have to have wings