Ojārs Vācietis’s (1933–1983) poetry represents a projection of the poetic process as it developed from the 1950s to 1980s and it is difficult to tell to what extent Vācietis perceived and expressed necessities prompted by his time and to what extent he himself was forming this process, influencing almost all of his poetic contemporaries. He wrote: "I did not invent poetry. Poetry invented me." Vācietis’s oeuvre, taken as a whole, resembles a polyphonic piece of music: there are several themes that, in various degrees of intensity, are present already in his early books; these themes are then gradually developed, some culminate and then quiet down, draw to the background and give their place to another. In the 1950s and the first half of the 1960s, Vācietis’s poetry tended toward more or less precisely formulated social ideas, which were expressed with maximum intensity of poetic feeling and pathetic accents at their superlative degree. In the second half of the 1960s, however, he took remote journeys in the wastes of poetic time-space and the expressive poetics was replaced by delving into himself, into the infinity of consciousness, and digressions into Latvian history, albeit with a penchant for discussing social problems in a poetic form. In a sense it was unavoidable: the poet "escapes from himself", using what he has already done as a point of departure. The expressive poetics – in part because of Vācietis’s many followers and imitators – gradually turned into a literary cliché. Vācietis had stirred up the potential for generating poetic ideas and now he had to proceed to unlock the deepest layers of poetry. The passionate apologia for and equally passionate criticism of the civilization were replaced by calm skepticism and irony, which at times turned into a grotesque.

These poetic changes could also be interpreted as moving from the human experience in this world to the poet’s experience in the context of Latvian poetry, illustrated by replacing idea poetry with associative poetry. This kind of poetry is always open and unfinished – there is enough space between the metaphors for a freedom of interpretation and in "Si minors" ("Si Minor") (1982) Vācietis fully expressed himself as a poet of this free, empty space. In the 1960s having realized his potential for expressive writing, in the 1970s and early 1980s he explored the creative potential of metaphor and reflection.

Guntis Berelis

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