Literature Review: Voices on the Bridge

Līga Horgana is back with a literature review of Voices on the Bridge, a collection of Irish and Latvian poetry compiled, translated, and partially written by Noel Lyons and Skarleta Feierabends.

Ireland and Latvia have a very special connection. Over the last almost 20 years since Latvia became an EU member state, a large number of its people have emigrated and found a new home in Ireland. As of 2016, according to the data by the Irish Central Statistics Office, there were around 20,000 Latvians living in Ireland. Many Latvian kids are born and brought up in another country, which raises the questions historian Gints Apals asks in the afterword of Noel Lyons and Skarleta Feierabends poetry book Voices on the Bridge: “Where exactly is home? Where will home be after ten or twenty years. How long will this land be a temporary abode or will I be here forever? Is it possible to belong to two homelands – old and new?”

The book was released last spring, which is when I got my copy sincerly signed by the authors; however, it took me a long time to finally sit down and write about it; the upcoming St. Patrick’s day we always celebrate at home due to my husband’s many family members living in Ireland was the biggest motivation for this finally to happen. 

Noel Lyons is an Irish musician, poet, historian and teacher, and lives an active social life. Skarleta Feierabends is Latvian: she is Chairperson of LatWest Association in Ireland. Voices on the Bridge contains poems in three languages – Irish, English and Latvian — and it is meant to build a bridge between these two cultures that are similar and different in their own ways. 

The main motif of this poetry collection is love. It is love for your land, people and life in general that brings both a lot of happiness and joy, as well as suffering and sadness. The other constantly present motif is time – seeing the present through the lens of the past. Both motifs appear in the poem “Mayfly”:


No greater gift than love I give

As I take her sacred hand

My love it lives forever

For my beauty and my land


My other love is freedom

I have known it for six days

I lived so I could see them

I will die within its gaze


Old trees bend and wither

Old men wrinkle and turn gray

Mayfly beauty like my love

Live a lifetime in a day. (27.)


Both Noel Lyons and Skarleta Feierabends, being closely related to the music in their lives, have created a very musical work. Since a lot of the poems have melodies, they have quite different arrangements when performed as songs in front of a new cultural audience. Latvian schlager musician Gunārs Meijers’ song “Manai tautai”, translated as “My people” and performed by Noel Lyons, ) is one of these examples.

Included in the collection are also several of the Latvian songwriter and poet Guntars Račs’s works such as “Rasa”, as well as the very beautiful “Ja tevis nebūtu” and “Mēmā dziesma” by Jānis Peters and “Baltā saule” by Ziedonis Purvs that are all loved by listeners and have become classics of modern Latvian music. Noel Lyons and Skarleta Feierabends have given their own translated versions of these works that can be used to perform these songs in English.

Several classic Irish authors’ works such as “Mise Éire” by Pádraig Pearse, “Mo Ghile Mear” by Seán Clárach Mac Dómhnaill and “Mise Raifteiri” by Antaine Raifteri are also included.

Voices on the Bridge comes with a very timely message – how urgent it is to remember the place and people we come from, and how important it is to know their language. Skarleta Feierabends has specifically pointed this about Irish language by saying, “The Irish language is very important to keep alive… the difference is that Latvians under occupation didn’t lose their own language, we kept it. The Irish language is destroyed by occupation, and that is the saddest thing.”

However, I think this is something that always has to be kept in mind for everyone who is a user of a smaller language. It is sad enough to see that there are Latvians abroad that do not teach their language to their kids, but even sadder that many people here in Latvia easily prefer switching to another language (Russian or English) upon noticing that their conversation partner struggles with Latvian. For me as a teacher, the most disappointing of course is seeing that my students, born and rose in Latvia by Latvian-speaking families, often choose to use English instead of Latvian in their everyday communication. My biggest hope is that our national awareness will eventually grow and we will start seeing our unique language and culture as something precious and valuable. Otherwise, it doesn’t even take an occupation to lose a language.

Make sure to press "subscribe" at the top of the page to know when every new literature review and other great articles about Latvia will be released, and like us on Facebook for important stories of the day each evening!


  1. Liels paldies.You have captured beautifully the essence of our integrated project especially the value of the mother tongue.

  2. I completely accepted this article, as I found lots of valuable information. Thanks for sharing this post, as I am very happy to read it.
    Surface Roughness Tester Calibration
    Accurate Surface Analysis: Surface Roughness Tester Calibration in Dubai
    Get reliable results from your surface roughness tester with our calibration services in Dubai. We ensure your instrument meets industry standards for precise measurement of surface texture.

    Contact us to schedule your calibration today!


Post a Comment