Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 14 September 2015

  • Lemmeleht

    The moon was glowing
    the forest darkening
    the swing creaking
    the pond shimmering

    the lemmeleht
    in the overgrown water
    its blossom calls
    a maiden

    come from here
    over the water
    take me
    and bear me

    the lemmeleht
    seemed to move
    the pond did not

    what will be given
    in return
    it knows how to make demands
    the lemmeleht
    the plant knows how to haggle
    the dawn grass to reckon

    the face of the maiden wilts
    but the lemmeleht burns
    side by side with a star
    in the pond

    the maiden pleads
    the lemmeleht burns

    promises to give
    jewellery and silver beads
    pendants and brooches
    and from over the heart
    a clasp
    but the lemmeleht
    stays silent
    under its leaf
    a frog
    just croaks

    she promises to give
    her father's plough
    her brother's horse
    her sisters's spinning wheel
    her mother's cows Maasik Lehik Lillik

    and little Muu
    and grandmother's loom

    the lemmeleht
    doesn't move
    demands something else
    it glows like day
    it rings like a bell
    the maiden pleads
    and begs and


    no help to be found

    and quietly the lemmeleht says
                             promise me your home
                             your home promise me
                             nothing else
    the lemmeleht stirred
    the water rippled

    and she promised her home

    and the lemmeleht
    was near her mouth
    beneath her heart
    and on her head
    but her home was gone

    the lake was left
    the maiden
    tore fescue from
    her head
    from beneath her heart
    scraped the knowing plant
    from her mouth
    she struck the lemmeleht
    the fescue didn't argue any more
    the lemmeleht lay still

    her home was gone
    the lake was left

    a duck quacked
    and a frog croaked

    by Kauksi Ülle
    translated by Ilmar Lehtpere and Mari Kalkun

    *The lemmeleht is a mythical plant in southern Estonian Seto folklore.

    News from the Centre: many thanks to everyone who entered our International Poetry Competition. The judging process has now begun, and our shortlist and winners will be announced in December!

    On Monday 21 September from 4-5pm, Peter Hainsworth and David Robey will be discussing Dante in a free event at Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford. They will be giving a very short introduction to Dante and his work in the 750th anniversary year of his birth. Visit the website for more details.

    ‘Lemmeleht’ is copyright © Kauksi Ülle, 2015. It is reprinted from Six Estonian Poets (Arc Publications, 2015) by permission of Arc Publications.

    Notes from Arc Publications:

    Kauksi Ülle is a poet and cultural activist. She has become something of a symbolic figure, an icon of ethno-futurism, the focal point of an ebullient era with its own worldview, currents of literary life, identity issues, conflicts and impassioned debate. ‘Lemmeleht’ appears in the book Six Estonian Poets, in which the editor, Doris Kareva, presents us with the work of five highly individual poets of the younger generation together with that of the most influential figures of their parents' generation. You can read more about the book on the Arc website.

    IlmarLehtpere had a bilingual upbringing in Estonian and English. He is the translator of Kristiina Ehin's The Drums of Silence (Oleander Press, Cambridge, 2007), which was awarded the Poetry Society Corneliu M. Popescu Prize for European Poetry in Translation. His other translations of Kristiina Ehin's work are Põletades pimedust -Burning the Darkness - An Dorchadas á Dhó (trilingual Estonian-English-Irish selected poems, Coiscéim, Dublin, 2009), A Priceless Nest(short stories, Oleander Press, Cambridge, 2009), Päevaseiskaja -South-Estonian Fairy Tales (Huma, Tallinn, 2009) and Noorkuuhommik- New Moon Morning (selected poems, Huma, Tallinn, 2007). He has also translated her play, A Life Without Feathers, and has already started working on her next collection of poems in English.

    Read more about the work of the translators: Ilmar Lehtpere and Mari Kalkun.

    Since it was founded in 1969, Arc Publications has adhered to its fundamental principles – to introduce the best of new talent to a UK readership, including voices from overseas that would otherwise remain unheard in this country, and to remain at the cutting edge of contemporary poetry. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. As well as its page on Facebook, you can find Arc on Twitter. Visit Arc’s website to join the publisher’s mailing list, and to find full details of all publications and writers. Arc offers a 10% discount on all books purchased from the website (except Collectors’ Corner titles). Postage and packing is free within the UK.

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