Valts Ernstreits
(Latvia, 1974)   
Valts Ernstreits

Valts Ernstreits writes his poetry in Latvian and Livonian, the language of an ethnic minority in Latvia. It numbers just a few hundred souls, and just a few dozen of them actually speak Livonian. There is a popular saying to the effect that one can assemble the whole Livonian nation under one big oak.

Ernstreits plays a leading role in the struggle for the preservation of the Livonian language and culture in and outside Latvia. He is a favourite subject of the Estonian media, as Livonian and Estonian are related languages. In 1998 he received a high Norwegian award, the order of Saint Olav.

In 1993 he founded the Livonian Cultural Centre and he is a co-organizer of the Language and Culture Camp for Livonian Youths, held annually at a coastal resort in Livonia. In 1998 he published an anthology of Livonian poetry. He also compiled dictionaries of Livonian to Finnish, Estonian and Latvian.

In 1998 Ernstreits graduated from the Faculty of Letters of the University of Tartu in Estonia, although he did not speak a word of Estonian when he began his studies there. He was the first Livonian student ever to enter that university.

In 1997, Kustannus Pohjoinen in Finland published the anthology Älä juo vesijohtovettä ('Don’t drink piped water') which includes work by Ernstreits.

Ernstreits is also active as a visual artist. Drawings by him are on show in Tartu.

© Frans van Nes (Translated by Ko Kooman)

[Valts Ernstreits took part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 2002. This text was written on that occasion.]


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