Imants Ziedonis (1933) is a rational thinker who is persistently preoccupied with the irrational, creating his "non-linear philosophy" and searching for archetypical signs and symbols around which our being is centered. As soon as he has found the principles at the bottom of world order, Ziedonis quickly destroys his own impressive construction and immediately sets out to create a new one to finally (in his book "Taureņu uzbrukums" – "Butterfly Attack") get to the point of death of poetry, which turns out not to be death at all: "I go out into that light, / and farther there’s no go. / (..)and there will be no poetry, / just light and only light."

The title "Es ieeju sevī" ("I Go into Myself") (1968) registers precisely the kind of changes that in the late 1960s took place in the Latvian poetry as a whole: the poets moved from poeticizing progress and speed to retreating into "themselves". The collection includes the cycle of poems "Tēze – antitēze" ("Thesis – antithesis"), which is a veritable "ghost hour of the dialectic" (Ziedonis, in a different context). It is not, however, pragmatic ideas or ideological theses and antitheses that are contrasted but rather "existential situations", which at times are viewed paradoxically. Moreover, the thesis-antithesis principle does not involve a sharp opposition; it is rather two closely linked parts of a whole that always exist interconnected and cannot be thought of separately. There are similar "systemic" and "stylistic" extravagances in some other cycles that have made it into the collection – "Pieturas zīmes" ("Punctuation Marks"), where the poet attributes meaning to periods, colons, and exclamation marks, and especially in  "Trīsžuburi", where one situation is viewed from three interlinked aspects. It all represents an attempt to do away with inertia in thinking, to pull away "scales from eyes". Yet the deceptively simple and quotidian text that closes "Es ieeju sevī", a description of everyday rituals, actions where the result is not as important as the action itself, seems to be more significant for Ziedonis’s subsequent writing. The action is a goal in itself, no matter if a person is brewing beer, building a church, or writing poetry.

The butterflies in "Taureņu uzbrukums" (1988) are hardly an entomology exhibits; rather, they are embodiments of Ziedonis’s "non-linear philosophy" and symbols for absolute, aimless freedom or perhaps: "[…] The Great Laugh of Nature. And nature does not laugh through flowers or fruits, but it is overcome by butterfly giggles and – quite simply – the heart of this land is laughing." Butterflies are an "internal movement"; there is no rational use for them unless you use them as metaphor for uselessness. Ziedonis’s butterflies are a link between time and space; they remind us of maps of non-existent continents; at times they turn into elegant metaphors that are a little surreal ("The roots of butterflies stir up the soil, a butterfly cross circling the cemetery. In the sky a butterfly star is shining.").

Ziedonis is also a prose writer. His three books of "Epifānijas" ("Epiphanies") (1971, 1974, 1994) are collections of peculiar inter-genre texts that contain elements of essays, poetry in prose, lyrical miniatures, and ironic or grotesque parables. Here the author reveals himself to be a master of the paradoxical: he preaches the rightness of the wrong, the weight of the light, the multifacetedness of the one, the usefulness of the useless, etc. Ziedonis always tries to do away with stereotypical perception, taking a different, often paradoxical view of familiar motifs and symbols.

Guntis Berelis

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