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The Orbita Group

orbita.jpg
The Orbita Group is an award-winning collective of Latvian Russian poets, photographers, musicians and multimedia artists involved in the Latvian culture scene with performances and art installations, publishing bilingual literature, poetry collections, photography art books and research literature.

Book shop

I met some of the Orbita Group last week in Riga, in a fabulous bookshop called, Mr Page. Kevin M. F. Platt the editor of Orbita’s latest collection, Hit Parade (Ugly Duckling Presse), describes Orbita as being “a loosely bonded organization. Founded in 1999, it includes not only the four ringleaders (Semyon Khanin, Artur Punte, Vladimir Svetlov and Sergej Timofejev), but also a large number of affiliates active in literature, visual art, music, and so forth.” In this collection is the poetry of the individual poet, and the collective (poems in Russian paired with translations into English).

The collective not only promotes the work of Latvian Russian poets, but also translates contemporary Latvian poetry into Russian, actively and successively creating ties between Russian and Latvian speaking authors.

The group appears at poetry and art festivals all over Europe and Russia, and in the USA they performed a more compact version of the “FM Slow Show”  – poetry readings accompanied by sound-scapes. Instead of microphones, the poets used megaphones as used by tour guides.

Since 2007, they have been actively exploring poetic installation as an art form, presenting their work at events like the White Night festival, Survival Kit and Cēsis Art Festival. In 2015, Orbita was represented at the ‘Ornamentalism. Purvītis Prize’ exhibition of Latvian contemporary art in Venice, at the 56th Venice Biennale, with their ‘Two Sonnets from Laputa’ large-scale poetic installation.

sonnet

*

I was riding my bike, the one that got stolen afterwards
with my girlfriend, the one I broke up with a year later
along that street that got completely rebuilt
to that café—later on it simply closed

we were happily rattling off our thoughts and our legs

now there’s a pizzeria where the café used to be
I even go there sometimes
and order a four-cheese pizza
they bring it to me and the knife strokes through the pizza
remind me of spokes on a wheel

just like that: bike spokes—knife strokes

but just now, when I was riding on my bike
with my sweet girlfriend
along that well-known street
to our favorite café
I didn’t stop to think that with every push on the pedals
I was also driving the world into entropy and chaos

although the pizza wasn’t bad at all

Written by Semyon Khanin
Translated by Kevin M. F. Platt

*

let me tell you a story from back when I was still a burglar
I plied my trade in the suburbs, cleaned out private residences
one time I wound up with this married couple; they were already sleeping
I was going through the bedroom, they were in this huge bed, him facing up
towards the ceiling and her flopped out in a nightie, and both
were talking in their sleep, so I stand there on my tip toes by the wall and he says:
“I don’t believe you, your words are good for a couple of days, then they
turn into cardboard, lies…” then he wheezed through his nose. She was silent,
then sighed: “woven… right here and here… sitting in our box…”
“no matter,” he seemed to reply, then hollowly “she’s already here,”
and then she began to laugh, for real, in short spurts, but often and piercingly
“don’t you touch me,” her voice trembled, “don’t dare.” He snorted and I was
already getting ready to move on, when he clearly pronounced: “glass,
glass has frozen into the ice, shards, hide… hide me, I can’t…
you’re killing me,” while she was saying at the same time: “there’s no firing pin,
we don’t have any, you might ask a collector…” and with the last word she seemingly
completely ran out of energy. To this episode I owe a handful of silver
jewelry and portcigars. I knew that behind every picture was a safe,
and behind all of the wallpaper were mirrors. It was just like that, dear friends,just like that, respected gentlemen.

Written by Semyon Khanin
Translated by Kevin M. F. Platt

Orbita is also known for its clever poetic art installations and also video poetry projects:

To find out more about The Orbita Group or Latvian poets visit the Latvian Literature website:

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