Poet of Riga – Aleksandrs Čaks

Aleksandrs Čaks was a legend and first man of letters whose creativity bore a distinctly urban mark. His poetry was devoted to Riga`s restless, throbbing life, including topics and characters that hardly been featured before – the city night life, horse taxi drivers (cabmen), shop windows, streets and boulevards, poverty stricken suburbs. He is a world – level poet whose works are endowed with all human feelings, a vast scope of emotions and a passionate love.

Remarkably Aleksandrs Čaks portrays himself in his poetry as a “street smart”, a city loafer, a ruffian or an artist, though in reality he was for the most part a quiet, honest and diligent bank employee, a journalist or a clerk. His poetic associations reach out to the reader who revels in the affinity of the poets and the readers own unfulfilled dream of being a freethinker, independent of social dogmas and standards.

Aleksandrs Čaks is born in Riga on the 27th of October in 1901. At the Outbreak of World War I his family fled the country. Aleksandrs Čaks studied in various schools in Russia. Including Faculty of Medicine. In 1919 he was called up in the Red Army to serve on the hospital train. In 1924 he returned to Latvia and studied medicine and philology. He got a teachers licence and worked as a teacher and the schoolmaster in Drabeši, near Cēsis. Later he was a clerk in savings bank and correspondent for the magazine ” Atpūta” ( Recreation)

In 1927 he founded the publishing house “Seši” which published the poetry magazine “Jaunā Lira” ( the Lyre of the Young ) it issued two poetry books annually and this brought popularity to the poet and an amazingly benevolent critique!

Being a conscientious clerk and a patriot of his country he was not free from the times he lived in.. He also lacked the ability to conform to the soviet occupation in 1940 and his poetic muse fell silent. Mortified by the Stalinist functionaries he fell into depression and died in 1950 aged fourty eight. Here you can see his monument in Riga


A Poem about a Cabmen ( fragment )

Riga`s cool breath breezes in my face once more,
Dark waters whirl underfoot and underground,
A careless space wraps buildings and their floors,
And sprinting cars no longer yelp like hounds.

Frost whispers in the dark channels of the streets
And in the gardens, trees gently rustle
But the towers of old Riga with their steeples
Climb the sky, such a distant white sparkle.

Ah, my Riga, my old and grizzled Riga.
You took my heart and carried it away
Like a stray feather snached up by a seagull,
My very soul salutes you every day!


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