A Mordovian winter seems endless, especially if you are going to see seven of them in succession, and not by choice.
But under the snow, a seed is knocking:
This strong collection of poems from Latvian writer Knuts Skujenieks, could not be published until the fall of the Soviet Union, but has since been translated into more than 30 languages, but only made it into English a few months ago. Seed in Snow, translated by Bitite Vinklers, is perhaps best read now, in the depths of winter.
Skujenieks sent hundreds of poems back from Mordovia to Latvia in letters to his wife, where they were passed around in manuscript, but only published in 2002. He emphasises that this is not “gulag poetry”, but “poetry written in the gulag.” He had more freedom to write in prison than outside, without “literary groups or regulations”, relying on his imagination:
Most of all, the images of nature stay with you – seen through the fence or through the eyes of Skujenieks’ memory:
The photo of another sunset is from rather further north than either Riga or Mordovia – Jyväskylä, where I live. Under the snow and ice, a seed is knocking…