People like us / Seļļizt nemē mēg

Poems in Livonian

Translated by Ryan Van Winkle and Valts Ernštreits

In People Like Us you will wander through Latvia meeting Livonian characters as they struggle with the burdens and responsibilities of their language and heritage. You will explore ancient lands and lands yet to be discovered.


Livonian is a critically endangered Finnic language which once was heard in the fishing villages and communities around the Gulf of Riga in modern-day Latvia.

If you travel there today, you would be unlikely to encounter the Livonian language as there are fewer than 20 Livonian speakers remaining in the world. Remarkably, three of those speakers are also poets. So, while Livonian is probably one of the smallest literatures in Europe – the prevalence of poets working in this micro-literary community is vital to its preservation.

In these sometimes political, sometimes personal poems rooted in the Livonian coast, you will find symbols and images important to Livonian culture and venture into the poet’s own borderlands, sometimes dark and turbulent, sometimes calm as the sea on a quiet spring dawn.

About the author
  • Valts Ernštreits was born in Rīga in 1974, though his grandparents came from the Livonian village of Pizā (Miķeļtornis) and his ancestry goes back to the first Livonian poet Jāņ Prints. Ernštreits writes poetry in both Livonian and Latvian. He has published two collections in Latvian and edited several collections of Livonian poetry. He works as a linguist, translator, and interpreter and is actively involved in the revitalization of Livonian language and culture. This is his first collection of Livonian poetry published in a bilingual edition.
About the translator
  • Ryan Van Winkle is a poet, editor and live artist living in Edinburgh. His second collection, The Good Dark, won the Saltire Society’s 2015 Poetry Book of the Year award.
    His poems have appeared in Modern Poetry in Translation, New Writing Scotland and The American Poetry Review.
    As a member of Highlight Arts he has organized festivals and translation workshops in Syria, Pakistan and Iraq. He was awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson fellowship in 2012 and the Jessie Kesson fellowship at Moniack Mhor in 2018.


Number of pages104

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