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Review: Six Estonian Poets, ed. Doris Kareva

© David Hart 2015, Stride Magazine

Each poet in Six Estonian Poets is introduced. Here is the opening of one introduction:

Kauski Ülle is the central figure of the South Estonian
regional movement, a writer in, and promoter of, the
Vöro dialect of southern Estonia.

She was born in 1962, the other poets included are of that generation apart from the first, Juhan Vilding, born 1948. Even this beginning of a context - where is Estonia exactly, what is its modern history, what traditions have been the making of its poetry? - appear to make a clear reading of the poems, and not least in translation (there are three co-translators of Kauski Ülle and more for the whole book), impossibly difficult.

But here is the opening of Kauski Ülle's 'Greeting to mothers and mothers' mothers'

Greetings to the mother of mothers
to the kindly primal woman
who keeps all the world alive
spreader of both warmth and light
it is to you that we bow
tying lengths of white yard for you
call your power to make porridge
and give power to our porridge
for the good of all the world
take a mouthful of the porridge

and I think yes, there is difference here and there is powerful writing, alive with it, and how happy a thing to have it now in English. It communicates across boundaries and it is new. The book has an urgency about it, a patience too, a life-blessedness:

I formed you and found
rightness in your light,
until your pain
alarmed me: you are alive.

Rain tumbled onto my hands,
wind rocked my body.

You are other

This is the whole of a poem, or part of a loose sequence, untitled, by Triin Soomets. The book has poems by three women and three men. On this evidence, Estonia's poetry seems alive and very well, and I would recommend this bilingual collection as exemplary for groups, colleges and for open-hearted individual poets.