Semyon Khanin

Portrait Semjon Hanin
Semjon Hanin [© Aleksejs Beleckis]

Poet and performance artist Semyon Khanin, who writes in Russian, was born in Riga, Latvia in 1970. He studied Russian language and literature in Tartu, Estonia, and Riga until 1997.

His poems first appeared in Latvian and Russian magazines such as »Daugava«, »Vosduch«, »Volga« and in various anthologies. In 1999, he was one of the five founders of the group Orbita, an association of Russian-speaking Latvian poets whose main goal was to integrate their tradition-rich literature of the Baltic region into the modern cultural landscape and to fuse it with other genres such as video art, new media, music, and film. For critic Dmitri Kuzmin, the group of authors is interesting for its »clearly defined dual self-determination«. He stated that »They are as much a part of Russian world literature as they are of Latvian and Western European culture, in whatever language it is produced.« Since its founding, Orbita has published volumes on poetry and art and presented its own poetry in their multimedia installations and performances both in their homeland and at numerous festivals throughout Eastern and Western Europe.

Khanin’s first volume of poetry, »tolko tschto« [tr: Just Now], was published in 2003. The texts primarily explore his inner world as well as the echoes of the outside world in his body and soul. From the very first lines, the reader is thrown directly into the events, which are perceived from a subjective perspective rooted deep within. With their broad linguistic registers, Khanin’s poems, some of which describe grotesque everyday situations, focus primarily on figures who move on the fringes of society and stand in an alienating relationship to the world dubbed normality. Not infrequently, they reflect the lost feeling of the individual in a world that seems apocalyptic: »the ship sank / and the sun shriveled up / and the capsized sea spilled out / and we are here / we are here / here«. A bilingual selection of Khanin’s poems appeared in 2017 under the title »no ne tem / bet ne ar to« [tr: But Not With It] and was nominated for the Cultural Year Award by the »Diena« newspaper.

Khanin also translates into Russian. His translations focus primarily on contemporary Latvian poets such as Edvīns Raups, Kārlis Vērdiņš, Jānis Elsbergs, and Marts Pujāts. He has also translated poems by American poet Eugene Ostashevsky from English. His anthology of poetry written in Russian by Latvian authors between 1680 and 2010 was published in 2011. Khanin has been a participant in numerous international festivals such as the Poetry Biennale in Moscow, the Poetry Days Riga, the Poetry Festival Berlin, and the Esposizione internazionale dʼarte in Venice. For these festivals, he developed poetic performances and installations, for example »One Face Theatre«, »Missed Details« or »Three-Dimensional Poetry«.

The author lives in Riga.

Date: 2022