Arvis Viguls

- Latvia -

Arvis Viguls (1987, Jēkabpils, Latvia) is author of four critically acclaimed poetry collections and translator from English, Spanish, Russian and South Slavic languages, as well as editor at literary magazine Strāva (Current). He has received Latvian Annual Literature prize for the best debut (2009) and the best translation (2022) among other awards. In 2017, international literary project Literary Europe Live selected him as one of ten New Voices from Europe and in 2022 he was shortlisted for European Poet of Freedom Award 2024, an international literary prize organized by city of Gdańsk. His most recent published translations are short story collection Encyclopedia of the Deadby Danilo Kišs and selected poetry of Ted Hughes (both 2023). His own work has been translated and published in more than 20 languages including books of selected poems in Spanish, German and Croatian. His latest poetry collection Blusu cirks (Flea Circus, 2021) will be published in Polish translation in 2023.

Arvis Viguls (born 1987) is a Latvian poet and translator. For his debut collection "Istaba" (The Room) (2009) he received the Poetry Day Award and the Annual Latvian Literature Award, the collections "5:00" (2012), "Grāmata" (The Book) (2018) and "Blusu cirks" (Flea Circus) (2021) have been nominated for the Annual Latvian Literature Award. Viguls has also received several awards for his translations and translations. 


Viguls’ poetry is often described as manicured and laconic, but his poetic voice rarely becomes so alienated that it loses dynamism or tension. Writing about "5:00" and "The Book", Artis Ostups highlights Viguls’ kinship with late modernism; we may invoke Ted Hughes, whose selected poetry is due to be released in 2023 in Viguls’ translation, or Tomas Tranströmer. The author Arvis Viguls feels comfortable both in laconic free verse and in strict verse, while his speaker feels comfortable nowhere, often writing as a swindler or observer, sometimes – as a tyrant or loser. Ever absent and out of reach, Viguls calls and writes from distant cities, with one foot in another century or dimension – "The Room" is enveloped in four letters and a "tribute to friends beyond the border with no way back", and the frameworks of "The Book" and "Flea Circus" suggest librarianship and technical literature. 


However, his poetry is also very physical and spatial. A large part of this is due to his effort in the full depiction of physical life, which leads not only from the cradle to the grave, but also to the kitchen, bathroom, supermarket and telephone booth. The world of Viguls’ poetry is sustained by an entire infrastructure of gutters, electrical systems, furniture, razors, clothes lines and other objects that are complicit, if not alive, in his poetry. As Raimonds Ķirķispoints out in his review of "The Book" (titled “The Review”), Viguls identifies himself with the book from the very first poem, and presumably identifies with plenty of other things throughout his books as well. In "Flea Circus", this relationship between the human and material selves has already been reversed, and most of the collection is devoted to bringing various objects to life. 


I consider "5:00" and "The Book" to be two of the strongest collections in Latvian poetry of the past decade; these collections are my personal ideal for what a well-thought-out text looks like, so I approached Arvis as the editor of my debut collection without hesitation. I was surprised that after we had arranged the approximate sequence of the manuscript together, Arvis rarely changed the text during the editorial process, rather offering different solutions to individual nodes that I could not solve. That's how I envisioned Arvis’ own creative process, first marking the overall field and then looking for the right option among many. 


With the release of "The Book", the question of whether Viguls would not have written himself into a corner started coming up in criticism and writers’ internal discussions – the poems seemed increasingly surgical, and we had to wait a whole six years for the collection. The most recent collection, "Flea Circus," charts an interesting path of retreat – humour. The talking, living and suffering things have given Viguls a second wind, departing from his usual territory and tone and writing about such everyday trifles as ants, typewriters and guillotines. 


Edvards Kuks