Photo by Ilmārs Znotiņš /Diena/
Imants Ziedonis, a poet and writer, was born in 1933 in Ragaciems, a small village by the Bay of Riga. The son of a fisherman, as a young man Ziedonis was variously employed as a road-construction worker, a teacher, and a librarian. His first published works appeared in 1957. Ziedonis graduated from the State University of Latvia in 1959 and later studied literature in Moscow. There he founded the Latvian Cultural Fund in 1987 and was the Fund’s first chairman. Since the renewal of Latvia’s independence, he has served as a deputy in the Latvian parliament Saeima and as director of the Latvian Institute.
Already with his first publications at the turn of the 1950s and ‘60s, Imants Ziedonis showed his bright talent and earned readers’ notice. He was a representative of the generation that took advantage of the possibilities of the so-called Khrushchev thaw. With it came the liberty to express thoughts freely and search for new content and form in spite of the dogmatic ideology of the literary people and critics who served the occupation regime. Ziedonis’ creative work is characterized by original expression (“verbal rope-walking”), paradoxes, surprises, a philosophic viewpoint, and occasionally, usage of “non-poetic” everyday speech.
Ziedonis has written scripts for various documentary and feature films, including the Latvian classic ‘Pūt, vējiņi!’ (Blow, Wind, Blow!), and has translated the works of various Russian poets into Latvian. In 1976 Ziedonis received the Hans Christian Andersen Award for his contribution to children’s literature. He was awarded the prestigious Latvian Order of the Three Stars in 1995.
In 2010, the renowned theatre director Alvis Hermanis produced the play Ziedonis and the Universe at the New Riga Theatre, featuring Kaspars Znotiņš in the title role. The production received enthusiastic reviews from the audience.