Articles, essays, poetry

In some parallel reality, I'm a trailblazing journalist.  In another, I'm a serious academic digging into European intellectual history.  In a third, I'm scribbling poems in obscure cafes.  In a fourth, I've devoted my life to translating Latvian literature.  In the reality I inhabit, I do some of each. Here are glimpses into some of my other writing work.




"So Weird and So Awesome: Rachel Maddow," profile and interview published online, Fall, 2009.


What could be more fun then writing about a fellow Rhodes scholar, let alone a Scholar as flamboyant and admirable as broadcast celebrity Rachel Maddow?



California Rhodes Scholar, 1995

Over the last year, the words "Rhodes Scholar" have ricocheted all over the American media space, and this time it's not thanks to Bill Clinton.  True, if you don't live in the US, or don't watch television, you may never have heard of Dr. Rachel Maddow.  In that case, you're also blissfully ignorant of the wild world of US cable news, with its yelling, angry men, purveyors of right-wing extremism and finger-stabbing slander.  Maddow is the antidote to their poison, a media doctor without borders, coming to the aid of what Americans call 'the left wing,' and a European calls 'liberals.'  Both have lacked a strong voice in American media for a long time, and Dr. Maddow is filling the absence with an elegant vengeance.

For more, go to: where you will also find my autobiographical assessment of the nature of the Rhodes Scholarship.


And - make sure you get to know Rachel!  Her show is at..




"Mīla-vīla" (Fooled by Love),  an analysis of the two playwrights, Rainis and Aspazija, published in Robežas/Borders, in Latvian and English, editor V. Matīss. Neputns, Riga, 2006.


When Dr. Vita Matīsa invited me to write about my two great passions, Rainis and Aspazija, I leapt at the opportunity to return to my academic past and dig into the archives.  The result is my essay about their life in exile  --  what happens to two artists who are married and far away from their readership.  It's not a pretty sight.  Published in an anthology of articles regarding Rainis and Aspazija in Switzerland.




It's so exciting to follow Rubess' train of thought - the things that interest her, the phrases she extracts from the postcard correspondence of Rainis and Aspazija.  The great poets wrote postcards to each other every day, when they weren't together... [..]  It's impressive to see how deeply B. Rubess has read the text, how she's able to see the transformation of love in a single sentence..
Guna Kalniņa, Rīgas Laiks, for Kultūras Diena, January 7, 2007

Rainis Aspazija


Aspazija and Rainis in an uncharacteristically happy shot with children not theirs.  From the archives:  Rainis -RTMM_74286-Rainis




I did start writing poetry when I was ten, and I did win an award for a sonnet I wrote while still in high school, but the poetic muse left me until 1992, when I was asked to write a poem about 'my' city by a broadcaster at CBC radio.  The result was a poem called "Riga for Poets", published in the Canadian literary journal Descant, 2004.



The view from my office in Riga 2005-2011



Riga reads poetry.
A poetry reading, standing room only.
A scrawl, and the poet stops heartsick in the luminous night, peering up at dark windows. The address -- a blur on a crumpled page.  All the doorbells are broken. He sneaks up the stairs, fragrant with urine, and listens carefully for the party, the voices singing songs of -

-- the thrum and throb of Riga, hammers on a hope chest, wolves and tobacco, curses plopping in streetcars, planks across train doors, the bells so stern and silent, the wheeling and the whining, the declamations, defamations, denunciations and demonstrations, --

Oh the various bosses of this joint, the Swedes, the Germans, the Russians and the Germans, the Germans for the Russians, (and lest we forget: the English mayor), the Latvians, the Russians-Germans-Russians-Russians-Russians, and then the mafiosi and the money.

Runā Rīga. Rīga speaking.


Poets stroll along the boulevard towards the most beautiful woman in town. Her name is a maternal Milda, and though she's not a snob, she looks down on all of them.  Her long blue body reaching for the sky.  Her elegant fingers balancing three stars of independence.  They saunter towards her, eating ice cream  in the dead of winter.  She's a statue of Liberty in a class all her own. But for fifty years she watched poets swivel and stare at their handwriting.  For fifty years, she'd feel their backs twitch as they marched away from her, hangdog, marched towards the other end of her street. Towards the new guy.  He kept his back firmly turned, blushing with the effort.  Never looked her in the eye.  Stalwart, pointing at the void with his hands of red stone. Until Lenin's statue was toppled and the boulevard returned to Liberty.

Milda has seen and heard it all.

The murmuring voices, the murmuring soldiers, the murmuring children of soldiers and their murmuring children, murmuring and murmuring, year after year: „Are there really any Latvians left in Riga? Didn't we get rid of them all?"

Until someone left a poem at her feet.  Tucked under a rock.  Strong winds today.

A poet climbs up dark stairs, ears pricked for a song.

(sung)  „On the corner with the crippled beggar my longings will trample me like horses."
A poet is mugged in the narrow alleys of the Old Town.  She drops her copy of Baudelaire, -- which she reads in Russian since there is no Latvian version, -- and kneeling on the cobblestones, her stockings ripped, she holds out her shoes to her assailants.  It's all they want.  They bolt silently down Noisy Street.  She dries her tears, leaning against the cool walls of the medieval houses called Three Brothers.

Runā Rīga. Rīga speaking.

For more bibliographic information, see CV.