The Orbita Group

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.



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:



Somewhere in the Bakbouka by Tristan Moss


Somewhere in the Bakbouka

A pluck of the oud,
and lies start to harmonise
with truth,
past fortresses, snake charmers, caravans …
past the burnt out cars on the roadsides …
the viscous melancholy of oil,
seagulls slipping while trying to spread their wings,

to a pot of Bakbouka above a campfire,
the desert night closing in.

. . . . .

On the stove,
turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, chilli
the faded colours of our kilim,
rescued from a shanty town
of old dusty tins
high up on a shelf in the pantry.

Lamb fat dissolves,
marrow melts, flesh falls
into tomatoes, onion, spice, salt;
the rich red sauce thickening,
pools of oil rolling on its surface.

He inhales deeply.
‘Something of home’ he says,
the bakbouka murmuring
of Sabkhas, and a lemon-green sea.

‘Years ago’, he tells me,
‘anything you had could go in’.
A cauldron of possibilities
before the limits of dogma.

Last of all the pasta cooks
in the unctuous sauce
with the bak-bak-bou-ka
of bubbles rising and bursting:
Berber, Arab, Italian
all trying to have their say.

I loved that he was a Muslim
who ate chorizo,
and left behind
a thousand years of guilt;

that the oud’s song
had accompanied him
all the way to York.

But eventually
Gaddafi had succeeded
in transplanting
someone else’s benevolent smile
into his eyes.


Tristan Moss lives in York with his partner and two young children. He has recently had poems published in SnakeskinLighten Up Online, Open Mouse, and Picaroon Poetry.

You tink you wun kupuna by Joe Balaz



Wisdom is subjective.

Just because you got da wrinkles and da gray
no mean everyting is okay

wen you really have nutting to say.

You look like you stay holding court
expecting everyone to kiss your ring

but dey can see its simply made of glass
as you sit on your flimsy cardboard throne.

Da harlequin threads
dat your mind stay wearing

is moa den just wun obvious giveaway.

Age no can disguise
dat you are just wun jester

wun foolish wannabe
witout any gems or gold.

Moa bettah you keep your mouth shut

because da moa you talk
da moa da imaginary kingdom crumbles.

You tink you wun kupuna
but your crown is made of paper

and da polyester cape
draped ovah your shoulders

is full of timely holes.


kupuna – Ideally an experienced elder who gives worthwhile advice; old person


Joe Balaz writes in Hawaiian Islands Pidgin (Hawai’i Creole English) and in American-English. He edited Ho’omanoa: An Anthology of Contemporary Hawaiian Literature. Some of his recent Pidgin writing has appeared in Rattle, Juked, Otoliths, and Hawai’i Review, among others. Balaz is an avid supporter of Hawaiian Islands Pidgin writing in the expanding context of World Literature. He presently lives in Cleveland, Ohio.



Walk by Clive Donovan



Avoiding lifts,
Abandoning the party,
Needing a walk,
And starting with the pavement:

Lining it, the things I focus on;
Like stone walls, pitiless ivy,
The layer-cake of battlements
– Their calm, cemented presence.

Between kerb slabs – their very brink –
I alternate screen-grabs of sensible fencing;
Sparkles of mica jump and I glimpse caravans
At the bottom end of drives where bungalows sleep.

But what are these damp footprints
On the mizzled surface
Coming towards me?
I have passed nobody, it is very late.

If I met a beggar now I would surely give him some;
After all, we are the same;
In my reduced state, I, staggering,
But trying at least to walk like a gentleman,

Remarking my insights to an invisible sidekick,
Practising for when I have a friend
To share the celebration
Of a shifting in the matrix

In the dark morning hours when the reins of reality
Slacken because the world’s people slumber
And dreams, like badgers and owls,
Are loose in the rift.

I have had a sufficiency of white-outs and black-outs:
At my age!
I thirst for colours of fresh daylight, not this lamplit beige
Raw truth of a bleached postcard.

Like a limp, homing pigeon nearing source,
I follow still those backward footprints
On the misted pavement, patterning slightly,
Small and grey.



Clive Donovan devotes himself full-time to poetry and has published in a wide variety of magazines including Agenda, Acumen, Prole, Erbacce, Salzburg Review and online; Ink Sweat and Tears and Algebra of owls. He lives in the creative atmosphere of Totnes in Devon, often walking along the River Dart for inspiration. He has yet to make a first collection.


Ellie by Kevin Reid


She twanged through my childhood with her Irish lilt,
her urban tales blessed with God care for us. Free
of religion her ritual was laughter and liquorice. She spoke

of Queen of the Road, how it carried all her children
in its deep hollow body, how its spokes and wheels rattled
under sibling scraps; it was as black as a mortal sin. She sang

as she paced the living room floor, fiddled and fussed over
her grandchild swaddled in a tartan shawl. Silenced by sleep
she sat in her chair, stared at the fire with grandmother care. Warm,

fresh soda bread wrapped up in a tea towel, a smell I still hug.
She’d give me her alchemy, sour milk and flour, for all at home
to quickly devour, her mashed tatties and scallions was champ for us.


Kevin Reid lives between Scotland and other lands. His poetry has appeared in various journals such as, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Interpreter’s House, Under The Radar, Seagate III, Scotia Extremis. A mini pamphlet Burdlife (Tapsalteerie)
was published in 2017. He is editor of Nutshells and Nuggets, a blogzine for short poems.


If you knew what happened later that morning by Cheryl Pearson


If you knew what would happen later that morning
Perhaps brioche instead of the eggs,
yellow, wet, the last of your life. Perhaps
instead of the plain suit, your favourite dress,
which raises up your breasts like moons.
Perhaps yes instead of late, and no;
last love with your man, edge to edge
so the world is pressed out. He will know

the moment he sees the prim, particular way
the woman smoothes her skirt before the jump:
say no, say you, and watch through the smoke
as the blue sky opens and swallows, the way
your daughter opens and swallows, bird-like
on your giving fingers.





There will be new tenses. New ways to say your name.
Firsts of everything that are now less;
first birthday, first Valentines, first Christmas.

For years he will dream of your body,
a glass hammer that breaks the sky.
For years, he will dream of an opening door –
the key in your hand, your swimmer’s back
dripping with sweat, with rinsed light.
The print of your lips on his neck. Of mistake.

Cheryl Pearson lives and writes in Manchester. Her poems have appeared in publications including The Guardian, Southword, The High Window, Under The Radar, Frontier, and The Interpreter’s House. She has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her first full poetry collection, “Oysterlight”, is available now from Amazon/Pindrop Press.


S.A. Leavesley launches How to Grow Matches, guest readers Linda Black, Joolz Sparkes and Hilaire


Join Against the Grain Press and our fantastic guest readers at the launch of S. A. Leavesley’s pamphlet at The Poetry Café on the 31st March. A  little bit of Easter magic for all!

sarah.jpgS.A. Leavesley (Sarah James) is author of four poetry collections, two pamphlets, a touring poetry-play and two novellas. Her poetry has been published by the Financial Times, the Guardian, The Forward Book of Poetry 2016, on Worcestershire buses and in the Blackpool Illuminations. She runs V. Press poetry and flash fiction imprint was Overton Poetry Prize winner in 2015.

lindaLinda Black is an award-winning poet, a visual artist and a dyslexia specialist. Her pamphlet The beating of wings (Hearing Eye, 2006) was a PBS Pamphlet Choice. Her fourth collection, Slant, was published by Shearsman in April 2016.

Hilaire’s poetry and short stories have been published in both British and Australian magazines and anthologies. Her novel Hearts on Ice was published by Serpent’s Tail in 2000.

Joolz Sparkes is published in South Bank Poetry magazine and Loose Muse, was Poet in Residence at Leicester Square tube and was shortlisted for Bridport Poetry Prize 2010. Current projects include London Undercurrents – a joint project with poet Hilaire.



And the Dream-Magpie Speaks by Jill Munro


And the Dream-Magpie Speaks

This is for the superstitious few
who always triple salute the lone bird
pecking at a poet’s squashed roadkill.

This is for the girl of three and the boy of four
who lives up her lane. This is for the joyous two ─
they know that seven holds a secret never to be told,

that there are numbers for kisses and for wishes ─
who saw screens through black and white eyes
watching the hip flipside, the devil’s own bird.

This is for the stealers of gold and silver chains,
who know the edge of dreams lets lost loves
live on. This is for those who don’t believe
in dream-magpies or sorrow.


Jill Munro’s first collection ‘Man from La Paz’ was published in 2015 by Green Bottle Press. She won the Fair Acre Press Pamphlet Competition with ‘The Quilted Multiverse’ (2016). She has been awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship for 2018.


The blatant exposure of internal organs by Luigi Marchini


The blatant exposure of internal organs

Trapped between machine
and couch, he lies still;
the field holds no pull
as he is moved forward
into black and the noise begins.

He believes he can feel
a laser scarring red flowers onto/into
his stomach to the beat
of the sounds; a precise incision
until he is open, hot.
It does not hurt.
A whoosh of particles,
alpha and beta, announce themselves
by ghosting through the fundus
and anterior wall before swimming
in the gastric canal, ignoring the dam.

Home now, he vomits, bleeds
yellow rose – like petals
and, finally, pulls out a thud of hair.


Luigi Marchini runs the Canterbury-based SaveAs Writers group.


Reminiscence by Clare Proctor



As if I have already met you
I hear your voice.

It drops like a pebble
into a pond.

It drops
into the pond
of my childhood.

Dad pours autumn water
into the mould
as I dance through bonfire smoke
being a witch
or on Top of the Pops.

Your voice drops
into the garden pond
when I am a child.

I feel it break the surface.
I hear its muffled flux
as it sinks underwater,
settles into the silt.


Clare Proctor lives and teaches in Cumbria and is a member of the Brewery Poets. She has had poetry published in French Literary review and Shooter magazine.