Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 23 May 2011

  • [untitled]

    Sand martins sea-stone black
    gulls sea-foam white
    you screech over the harbour
    sweep over the churches
    circle over the city walls
    the breaking waves and me
    birds city birds
    what tales do you tell of Tallinn

    You tell of
    how the alarm bells were rung
    how mothers ran with their children
    when everywhere walls were in the way
    and the Russian bombers kept coming and coming
    from the east
    when it was all burning screaming and crumbling
    cracking and bursting

    Even now I hear the weeping
    this stony medieval beauty’s
    this age-old city’s
    black dresses rustling
    I feel the wind
    the soothing soft wind of the present
    that makes feathers and sand fly


    In the original Estonian:


    Kaldapääsukesed merekivimustad
    röövkajakad rannavahuvalged
    kiljute sadama kohal
    sööstate üle kirikute
    tiirlete kohal linnamüüri
    murdlainete ja minu
    linnud linnalinnud
    mida te pajatate Tallinnast

    Räägite ju
    kuidas siin hädakelli löödi
    kuidas emad lastega jooksid
    kui kõikjal olid müürid ees
    ja Vene pommilennukid tulid ja tulid
    ida poolt peale
    kui kõik põles karjus ja varises
    pragunes ja lõhkes

    Kuulen praegu veel nuttu
    selle kivise keskaegse kaunitari
    iidvana linna
    leinakleitide kahinat
    tunnen tuult
    vaigistavat pehmet olevikutuult
    mis lennutab sulgi ja liiva

    by Kristiina Ehin

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    This untitled poem, copyright © Kristiina Ehin, 2010, is taken from The Scent of Your Shadow, translated by Ilmar Lehtpere, and published in a bilingual edition by Arc Publications.

    Notes courtesy of Arc:

    Kristiina Ehin was born in Rapla, Estonia in 1977. She received an M.A. in Comparative and Estonian Folklore from Tartu University in 2004. She has published five volumes of poetry in her native Estonia and has won a number of prizes there, including Estonia’s most prestigious poetry prize for her fourth volume, written during a year spent as a nature reserve warden on an uninhabited island off Estonia’s north coast. She has also published a book of short stories and written a play. The Drums of Silence (Oleander Press, Cambridge, 2007), a volume of her selected poems in English translation, was awarded the Poetry Society's Corneliu M. Popescu Prize for European Poetry in Translation in 2007.

    The Scent of Your Shadow, from which this poem is taken, was the Poetry Book Society's Recommended Translation for summer 2010, and features an introduction by the poet Sujata Bhatt. In her introduction, Bhatt describes Ehin as 'a visionary poet with a discerning and distinctive voice, a voice resonant with genuine passion, close to the primordial world of spirits and myths, but also rooted in history and in contemporary life.'

    You can read more selections from the book at this link, and find out more about Kristiina Ehin here.

    Since it was founded in 1969, Arc 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. You can find out more about Arc by joining them on Facebook or by visiting the publisher's website, where there are discounts available on Arc books.

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