- Latvia -
Elvīra Bloma is a Latvian poet and translator, publisher and editor of the contemporary literature journal Strāva (Current), as well as an organizer of several noteworthy cultural projects. She studied cultural theory at the Latvian Academy of Culture, earning her M.A. in Cultural Heritage Governance and Communication. From 2014 to 2020, she worked as part of the staff at the Rainis and Aspazija House, as well as a bartender and poetry event organizer at the legendary hippy bar Hāgenskalna komūna. From 2020 to 2023, she lived and worked as a bartender in the mountains of Norway.
She has written and published her poetry since 2014, when she gained the attention of readers and writers for the first time with her voluminous declaration called “A Normal Woman,” which is a powerful and challenging poem of enumeration, which can be seen as representing the tradition began by Walt Whitman, where provocative images and statements are arranged in splendid free verse poetry. In her poem, this tradition is expanded upon in a modern way,corresponding to factors that are critical to the identity of the author, protagonist and speaker: to gender and reality of the cultural and social surroundings of Latvia in the 21st century. The organization of the poem is intriguing, including the fact that some of its lines are amplified with capital letters, which imitate someone raising their voice. It could be read as self-ironic social criticism, with the narrator demonstrating in a biting manner at times that “she is just like the others”, bound to the gender stereotypes that dominate in society, expecting solutions from menof all her ordeals, including financial issues, or at least CHAMPAGNE after a hard day.
Bloma’s first poetry collection “Deleted Images” came out in 2020 and was later shortlisted for Best Debut Prize at the Annual Latvian Literature Awards. The author explained the name of the book, using an analogy of cleaning one’s phone memory: “Looking back through that gallery of accidents, failures, and boredom, you realize that it says more about you than you want to admit.” Poet Arvis Viguls, who was the book’s editor, writes that: “As a reader, what speaks to me in particular in Elvīra Bloma’s poetry is the vulnerable openness and direct, even acerbic manner of its tense relationships, as well as the cyclical nature in the structure and way of thinking. Because of her way of thinking it is not separate episodes that are represented in the collection, but rather series or cycles of images and poems. Among the backdrop of selfies and portraits is an entirely vibrant and palpable Riga of the 2010s. Bloma declares herself as a powerful poetic individual with an exceptional voice, which surprises with its unique synthesis of tenderness and acerbity, which gives the poems and their tightly tethered cycles an intensity. Her poetry has been endorsed by her poet colleagues, who look at her not as a beginner, but as an already mature voice in new Latvian poetry, and whose debut collection is a warmly and impatiently awaited event”. Her poetry has been lauded by her poet colleagues, who look at her not as a beginner, but as a mature voice in new Latvian poetry, and whose debut collection was a warmly and impatiently awaited event.” In his review of the book, poet and critic Kārlis Vērdiņšaccentuated the usage of ekphrasis, which he believes sets down Bloma’s worldview. Vērdiņšwrites, that the images that are depicted “flash by, not allowing themselves to be viewed for too long and also allowing the creator of these very images to discern merely for a time or two moments, where one of the many images has not placed itself between her and us”. He also indicates that “Bloma goes confidently into the territories of banality and vulgarness, however she also extracts herself elegantly out of them, keeping in mind Latvian poet Einārs Pelšs’spostulate, that writing bad poetry is stylish, even if one is aware that “bad” in this case means not to simply write nonsense, but rather find your voice, and not being worried that it could appear to someone as bad and silly.” Also in writing a review for this book, I consider the deleting of images as a metaphor for the experience of cleansing and Bloma’s ability to express simple and unoriginal feelings and longings in a unique voice, “which does not shy away from fragile emotionalness and disarming openness, harsh social reality, or varied forms of irony and sarcasm.” There is also an annotation entitled “About whores” that complements the afore-mentioned poem “A Normal Woman” at the end of the book as a post scriptum, reminding one of discourse on curse words in poetry and similar issues. Bloma has dedicated a separate apologetic poem to the word “whore”, in an entirely justified and yet naively unclouded tone explaining the choice of the word and its etymology.
Many of Bloma’s poems are experimental and/or conceptual. She practices her adventurous fascination with contemporary aspects of poetry not only in her own individual work, but also in cooperation with her fellow poets, among them the poet group “Preiļi Conceptualists” or by compiling such works as a bilingual Latvian-Finnish experimental poetry anthology entitled “If You Forget Your Name” (2020, translated by Annika Suna). Recently, Bloma is focusing her efforts on leading the literary journal Strāva, dreaming about establishing her own publishing house, traveling between Latvia and the US, and working on her second poetry collection as well as a novel.
September 20th, 2023