It was on a publishers’ visit to Latvia in 2015 that we at Arc Publications first encountered Orbita. Intrigued by this group of Russian-speaking Latvian poets who appeared to be working completely independently from what was happening elsewhere in the Latvian poetry scene, Tony Ward, Arc’s founder and managing editor, arranged to meet them. Imagine his surprise to find that here were four poets – Semyon Khanin, Artur Punte, Vladimr Svetlov and Sergej Timofejev – who, working as a creative collective, were continuing the ideas of the UK ‘concrete’ poets of the 1960s and 1970s, published and promoted by Ward in the early days of Arc. What Orbita was creating in the twenty-first century was the sort of work that could have emerged from the British ‘concrete’ had it survived another fifty years into the technological age. Yet interestingly, the Orbita poets had no knowledge of the UK ‘concrete’ movement.
Orbita’s works can be described as a dialogue, with language as its base, between a wide range of artistic genres and cultures. The poets have produced a number of printed ‘almanacs’, which are designed to appear side by side with visual art (photography, graphic work and painting). They have also organised five festivals of poetry, video and multimedia art in Latvia, and issued two poetry CDs and a collection of poetry videos. In addition, they have created several multimedia poetry installations for public exhibition, produced a number of bilingual (Russian-Latvian) poetry collections and publications, and have even issued an anthology of contemporary Russian poetry in Latvia – a unique study of this phenomenon. Members of the group have been published in many European countries and are frequently invited to European literary and artistic festivals across the continent. In 2015 their installation 2 Sonnets from Laputa was included in the Venice Biennial Collateral events programme.
To celebrate the Baltic Countries Market Focus at the 2018 London Book Fair, Arc is putting together a portfolio of some of Orbita’s most striking work in the form of a printed book and an associated website, under the title Orbita: The Project. The book, which comprises a selection of poems by the four Orbita poets, has within it QR codes that link to a website where a wide range of Orbita’s poetry installations, multimedia films and visuals can be viewed. Add to this live performances in the UK by the Orbita poets during the Market Focus year, and British audiences will have the opportunity of experiencing a new and vibrant poetic.
By Angela Jarman
Angela Jarman joined Arc Publications in 1994 having previously run her own academic microform publishing business, Altair Publishing. Originally from a musical background, she was the moving force behind the Arc Music imprint in 1998. She works alongside Tony Ward running Arc, her main areas of responsibility being pre-press and marketing.
DAYS OF ANGELS
by Orbita poet, Sergej Timofejev
Angels are very slow dudes
Who smoke through cupped hands some sort of
They twiddle their thumbs
Up there in the sky.
The clouds smell like vanilla,
And everything’s so clean, safe, and well maintained,
Like breakfast in an aircraft,
Parked in an airport,
Once in a while they watch old action films
And think, well we could also do…
Then they go somewhere together,
Just a little downcast.
They get there – it’s a garden,
And they walk among the apple trees, plucking
Fruits from the tree of knowledge of good
And evil. They bite down. Munch away. For them
It’s harmless, just like everything else.
One day passes; another dawns.
And they watch action films again on a TV
The size of the sky.
Translated by Kevin M .F. Platt, Julia Bloch, Maya Vinokour, Sergej Timofejev