Monta Kroma (1919–1994) is one of the brightest and most innovative representatives of Latvian modernism, but her work has so far been studied very little. The poet’s centenary’s events and publications, including the selection of poems edited by literary scholar Agija Ābiķe-Kondrāte, highlight the role of this unusual poet in 1970s lyric space and throughout the history of Latvian poetry.
“The poet’s creative heritage, dating from the first book in 1947 to the last poems in 1993, combines two aesthetically and typologically contradictory periods of creation – socialist realism and modernism. The poet Māris Čaklais described this path of development of a creative personality as “breaking into two lives”, while the most complete proof of Kroma’s deliberate abandonment of her earlier principles of writing is to be found in the chrestomatic collection Lūpas. Tu. Lūpas. Es (Lips. You. Lips. I, 1970): “I am changed, all of me”.
The collection comprises poems from the poet’s modernist stage, beginning with a fragment from the poem Tālo apvāršņu zemē (The Land of Distant Horizons, 1959) and ending with poems from the last stage of her life. The book includes poems from her collections: Tuvplanā (Close Up, 1966), Lūpas. Tu. Lūpas. Es (Lips. You. Lips. I, 1970), Skaņas nospiedums (Sound Imprint, 1975), Refrēni (Refrains, 1979), Stāvā jūra (The Steep Sea, 1982), Monta (1985), Citi veidi (Other Ways, 1988), Esmu (I Am, 1989) and Jānis (written in 1988–1990, published in 2001), as well as poems not published in any of her poetry collections.
In these poems written in free verse, the motifs of the city, intimate feelings, tense sensuality and graphic expression dominate. Often denied or misunderstood in the literary environment of her time, these poems have survived their era and nowadays allow us to talk about Kroma as an innovative and fascinating poet whose heritage deserves a deeper exploration in the context of modernism, urban poetry and feminine writing.
Since the collection Lūpas. Tu. Lūpas. Es (Lips. You. Lips. I, 1970) the artist of Kroma’s poetry books was her longtime friend Helēna Heinrihsone who has also created several portraits of the poet. The cover of the collection Trotuārs (Pavement) also features Heinrihsone’s portrait Poet Monta Kroma (1974) whose tonality reflects the “Kroma-esque” uniqueness. The book is supplemented with a series of documentary photographs.