from 1001 Winters

In a dream
I saw a ticket booth
at a bus stop where
birds’ feathers were sold instead of tickets
and the seller was…
an old man
with the early spring sun in his eyes
and for you young lady…
he said slowly
and took from somewhere next to the door
where there might have been
a bin and a broom
one more feather
a white plume
light and as tall
as himself
I paid and went
in dream’s muddy buses
no notion of waking
no fear of inspection

by Kristiina Ehin, translated by Ilmar Lehtpere

This is the third in our series of four poems taken from the shortlist for The Corneliu M Popescu Prize. The Prize, run by the Poetry Society, was formerly called the European Poetry Translation Prize. The first winner of the Prize, in 1983, was Tony Harrison for The Oresteia. The prize was relaunched in 2003, and renamed in honour of the Romanian translator Corneliu M Popescu, who died in an earthquake in 1977 at the age of 19 The Popescu Prize 2013 has a shortlist of seven books, and the winner will be announced this Friday 29 November.

In addition, this Sunday 1 December sees the launch of a new poetry pamphlet. Inspired by exhibits in the Ancient Near East Gallery of the Ashmolean Museum, the pamphlet will be launched there from 3.30-4.30 with readings from the contributors, Adnan al-Sayegh, and Jenny Lewis. This free event will be introduced by Dr. Paul Collins, Curator of the Ancient Near East Gallery. More readings, led by Adnan al-Sayegh and Jenny Lewis, will take place at the Albion Beatnik Bookstore, 34 Walton Street, from 5.30-7.30: there will be a £2 cover charge and tea and wine will available.

This week’s poem comes from 1001 Winters and is copyright © Kristiina Ehin, 2013. The translation is © Ilmar Lehtpere, 2013. It is reprinted by permission of The Bitter Oleander Press from 1001 Winters by Kristiina Ehin, translated by Ilmar Lehtpere.

The judges of the Popescu Prize, Karen Leeder and David Wheatley, write: ‘Kristiina Ehin’s poem’How to explain my language to you’ ends with a moment of epiphany “in a language neither yours nor mine”, and these fine translations explore the meeting points in which the strange and the familiar find common ground.’

Kristiina Ehin is one of Estonia’s leading poets and is known throughout Europe for her poetry and short stories. She has an MA in Comparative and Estonian Folklore from the University of Tartu, and folklore plays a significant role in her work. In her native Estonian she has to date published six volumes of poetry, three books of short stories and a retelling of South-Estonian fairy tales. She has also written two theatrical productions as well as poetic, imaginative radio broadcasts, one of which has also been released as a CD. She has won Estonia’s most prestigious poetry prize for Kaitseala(Huma, 2005), a book of poems and journal entries written during a year spent as a nature reserve warden on an otherwise uninhabited island off Estonia’s north coast.

Kristiina has published seven books of poetry and three of prose in English translation. The Drums of Silence (Oleander Press, 2007) was awarded the Popescu Prize for European Poetry in Translation, and The Scent of Your Shadow (Arc, 2010) is a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation. Her plays and broadcasts have also been translated into English and her work, poetryand prose, appears regularly in leading English language literary magazines and anthologies in the US, UK and Ireland. She is the featured writer in The Bitter Oleander, 18.1, with thirty-two pages devoted to her poetry, short stories and an in-depth interview. In addition to English, her work as been translated into nineteen languages. Kristiina lives in Estonia with her husband, the musician Silver Sepp, and her son. Learn more about her from Ilmar Lehtpere’s website devoted to her work, and hear her read from her work in a film from Poetry Parnassus.

Ilmar Lehtpere is Kristiina Ehin’s English language translator. He has translated nearly all of her work – poetry, prose and drama – most of which has appeared in Kristiina’s nine books in his translation, as well as in numerous literary magazines. Kristiina and he have won two prestigious prizes together for poetry in translation. Their collaboration is ongoing. Ilmar lives in Estonia with his wife, the poet Sadie Murphy.

The Bitter Oleander Press, begun in 1974, has devoted itself entirely to contemporary poetry of the imaginative and the concrete particular from both within the United States as well as the rest of the world. We not only publish books in translation, but feature international poets in every issue of our biannual journal, The Bitter Oleander, whose work in translation would not otherwise be available to our astute readership. We publish four to five books of bilingual poetry by individualpoets per year along with two issues (Spring & Autumn) of our journal. Of more recent note are Jacques Dupin’s Of Flies and Monkeys / de singes et de mouches (France) in 2012, Kristiina Ehin’s1001 Winters / 1001 talve (Estonia) in 2013, Ana Minga’s Tobacco Dogs / Perros de tabaco(Ecuador) in 2013, and José-Flore Tappy’s Sheds / Hangars (Switzerland) in 2014 along with Philippe Rahmy’s Movement for the End, A Portrait of Pain / Mouvement par la fin, un portrait de la douleur (Switzerland) also in 2014 and Karl Krolow’s Puppets in the Wind / Eine Puppe im Wind(Germany) also scheduled for publication in early 2015. You can find out more about the press fromits website.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.