Everyone will know how to sing songs like “I saw in a dream”, “Song for Snow White” and countless others. But do we know as well who the author of those words is? It is the poet, playwright and actor Juris Helds, who celebrated his 79th birthday on July 20. And LR3 “Klasika” was a good reason to visit him in Valmiera, where the poet has lived for many years. Thirty of them were actors in the Valmiera Drama Theater, but last year the eleventh collection of poems by Juris Helds was published.
Since 1977, when Juris Held’s first collection of poems “Night Bird’s Testament” was published, he has been called the first surrealist in Latvian poetry. We talk about both music and poetry …
Orest Silabriedis: In my opinion, one of Romuald Jermak’s most beautiful compositions “There is only a night” was written directly with the poetry of Juris Heldt. What is its creation like?
Juris Helds: In 1968 we met on Latvian Television, where he worked there for a while. We had a show on television, made such recordings in ancient times, and Romualds did something there. He had read my first publication in Literature and Art at the time and asked permission to compose it – the poem “There is Only Night”. I was also fortunate to hear it sound in the Dome Church. It was also sung by Jānis Zābers and Kārlis Zariņš. That’s how I went a little in the world.
Yes, and something connects you with Johann Sebastian …
There is a saying – do not look for God in the church, God is in Bach’s music.
I don’t want to pretend to be an extremely big spec. When I listen to your discussion “Orpheus Ear” in “Klasika”, I think – well, amazing people that in such nuances you can discover the whole architecture of music. Then I just sigh (laughs).
But there is already Handel, Tomazo Albinoni. Wonderful things. And I wonder why I have in mind the saying of Arturo Toscanini – that sometimes composers manage to reach heaven, but Mozart comes from heaven. Beautiful!
When reading your articles and also some of your dedications to musicians, you can feel that music is very important to you.
Very … Chopin is very close to me. The first major break in my psyche occurred at a young age when I was about seventeen. At that time, I liked one to wander around the Old Town, and
it happened that Mozart’s Requiem was in the Riga Dome. When I came out after it sounded, it even feels hard to tell …
On the one hand – something supernatural, almost metaphysical, on the other hand …
It leaves an impression on your secular life that it seems to sink somewhere, disappears, and you don’t feel yourself at all …
You were already writing poems at that time?
I entered poetry very late. As an art form, I approached it with great reverence. There was doubt and insecurity about himself. It took quite a while before I became who I am.
I remember the first literary consultations in the Writers’ Union with Mirdza Ķempe, who had a lot of erudition. Regardless of the fact that she was a controversial person – let’s not talk about it, but she, as the people say, always felt the clothes. She went deep, she had her intuition. (..) I have very bright memories of Mirdza, just like a literary consultant, a person with such a wide horizon.
Coming back to the music, are there any previous childhood impressions before Mozart’s Requiem that are important to you?
There was a sport as a child … (..) But, for example, the imagery of Fritz Bārda’s poetry also provoked musical associativism. My mother really liked Fricis Bārda. I really liked Alexander Chuck. His poised suburb of Riga, collections “Mirrors of Imagination” and “My Paradise”. I have his little book “World Pub” in the “Green Crow” edition with all his autographs – I was lucky enough to get it as a bookmaker. Yes, Chuck made a big impression on me in my youth. Later, when a selection of French poetry first appeared in Latvia in 1970, it was a big, big discovery for me. It seemed – oh, day, I’m not alone!
It was an honor and good fortune to be well acquainted with the French translator and the wonderful freethinker Maija Silmal. She said – Yuri, in France you would be welcomed as your own …
As for the kinship of the spirit, it’s nice to be on your way, but maybe there are times when you want a fraternity of poets? Is there a spirit among poets and writers that you are happy to communicate with?
Yes, there are both. Knuts Skujenieks. Now his health does not allow him to meet, but at one time in Salaspils I often visited him, we read poetry to each other over good coffee. Knut’s poetry is really special …
It seems that one of Arthur Muscat’s first compositions is directly with your lyrics, at least the first choral song is definitely.
Yes it is so. But we do – hello, hello, it happens very, very rarely to meet anywhere in life. It was a surprise when I was told – you know, Yuri, there is a chord song with your lyrics! It was very romantic with Imants Kalniņš. The period in which all its atmosphere coincided …
It was about 1968 when the Valmiera Theater staged the Lithuanian play “Sentimental Story”, for which Imants wrote music. We got to know each other well. I gave him a small pile of my poems – handwritten.
It had all been lying in the attic or closet for a long time and beautifully, but then he had worked on my poems, polished them, done all the things in finer, until finally, if I am not mistaken,
In the rainy Imantdays of 1996 in Vecpiebalga, the first part of the concert sounded with my lyrics.
Then came the disc “I saw in a dream”, which contains seven of my poems and also the texts of the lovely Indian poet Sarodzini Naidu in Latvian translation.
Were you present in those Imantdays?
Yes, and not only then – my girlfriend and I went to Imantsday in Cesis, also to Imants’ Seventh Symphony. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but I remember both Imants’ Second Symphony and the Fourth very well – so emotionally.
In fact, the big impulse why I really wanted to meet you was “Song for Snow White”, because last winter I happened to listen to it again …
This is a very old youth verse. Very old.
One or There are at least four performances – Ojārs Grīnbergs, Marts Kristiāns Kalniņš, Igo and Daumants Kalniņš. In this quartet is anyone who likes better?
Hard to say. Probably Igo has been seated in memory or subconscious hearing the most. Very beautiful.
Do you tend to feed yourself with music on a daily basis?
I’m in such trouble that the disc player has been broken for a long time. And listening to my beautiful, big discs, which have a whole galaxy of classics, is now going secen. But at night I am very often awake and turn on “Classic”. To hear Portuguese fado tunes – I enjoy it. They have such a pain, such a spirituality. Fine thing!
Yes, I have a beloved Latvian nation, but I have never been such a puppet – someone else is closer to me, including the French chanson, which has left its impression. Legran, for example. Or Handel’s little one Length go Vivaldi.
I found your dedication to two great voices, such as Imai Sumaka. We were all told in the Soviet Union that she died in a plane crash, which was not true because she actually lived a long time. But you have a memorial poem for her!
Yes, in the third book. From the darkest jungle tones to the screams of a bird – such a vocal amplitude! A mysterious woman. He could rarely be heard – but when he could, it was magnetic, subconsciously it remained for years.
And another lovely voice for you is Inese Galante.
Yes, she is my favorite opera singer …
Now Inese Galante has been in her venerable years and is not so active, but now – when she sang Kacini in Riga Dome Cathedral Ave Maria… My poetry collection “Pawnshop” is dedicated to Inese’s voice.
If we talk about those times of day and your verses, it is as if you have a more active part of life than day.
That’s right, yes. From the time I worked in the theater, the night version became organic. Even now. Of course, sometimes I sketch during the day when there is an image or nuance, but at night there is peace. His son lives in Iecava – by the way, he graduated from Pāvuls Jurjāns Music School as a violinist.
The motif of birds is very important to you – they are also singers.
Yes, but there’s such a beautiful mystique – just in terms of imagery.
When Alfred Brem’s “Animal Kingdom” was accidentally separated for the first time, the owl suddenly jumped out. Ah! Such a metaphor … The man who gave the bird this metaphor – the owl – was a poet.
Because there is an owl, a white owl and so on. This is how the Night Bird’s Testament came into being, my first collection of poetry, which was published in 1977 – in the first poem there is a ring and the image of a barn owl.
And another impression of winter. You have a lot of winter.
I somehow hadn’t noticed! (laughs) Although as an individual I don’t have to be thirsty for winter and cold. Of course, there is a beauty in it, especially if you are on some country roads and you can walk around the forest quite lonely – then you feel that nature is in another world.
And what relationship do you have with those who have studied and described you? Have they understood anything?
I think so. I am not personally acquainted with the literary critic Ruth Veideman, but she has written. Literary scholar Ieva Kalniņa understands poetry perfectly – she has such an intuition … I was very pleased to have such a lady with such an understanding in this world! Another Maija Silmale. Edgars Lāms is a professional literary critic. I have not met him, but I had a big and unexpected surprise about the article “Jura Held’s Surreal” in the “Flag”. When the book “Portraits of Latvian Poets” was published in the “Zinātnes” edition, I concluded that, unfortunately, many are already in his world – what is left? Knuts Skujenieks, Jānis Rokpelnis and I, but there were also Leons Briedis, Hermanis Marģers Majevskis, Uldis Bērziņš and Laima Līvena … That feeling is so global. There is an ancient term in literature – world sadness, which dates back to the days of Byron. The sadness of not having so many colleagues anymore. And now the sorrows of the world are simply not released.
But you have always had them – for longing and unreachability.
Yes, you have a very accurate idea. That’s right, everyone has their own approach. (..)
When someone asks me, just like a shot from a revolver – what poetry is to you, what its meaning is, I say – you know, it seems to me that the meaning of poetry is an attempt to express the inexpressible. This is an eternal attempt.
Because what we can easily express is rhyme. Or the concept of the Soviet era – journalistic poetry, from which there was no journalism. We could talk about real journalism with white bears …
For me, however, it will probably be one revolver question. You’re called a surrealist – are you at peace with that?
In principle, I am at peace, but there needs a small, small explanation – my surrealism is by no means in line with what is classically understood by psychic automatism and surrealist declarations. The main thing for them was to shock the audience. But their essence stems from romanticism, from romantic perception, so that in that sense surrealism is close to me, but not only that – in art and painting, impressionism is also very close to me. These works always attract attention. Because impressionism in a way is also something that cannot be expressed – its nuances, intuitions … But surrealism is in me, yes.