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.


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

A reminder: Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre is on Facebook and on Twitter.

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.

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.