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The Scent of Your Shadow

The Scent of Your Shadow

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Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation Summer 2010

Arc ‘Visible Poets’ translation series, no. 29

My soul is like these threads of spider silk
between two apple trees

Rooted in an ancient folk song tradition, Kristiina Ehin's poetry is both universal and deeply personal; her language is direct and simple, yet she expresses herself so vividly that her joys and sorrows become the reader's own. These poems, beautifully translated by Ilmar Lehtpere and selected from her most recent collection, were written over two years, beginning shortly before the birth of her son.

"Here is a generous, honest imagination: visceral, shamanistic and wise. Kristiina Ehin is a visionary poet with a discerning and distinctive voice, a voice resonant with genuine passion, close to the primordial world of spirts and myths, but also rooted in history and in contemporary life. There is a refreshing lightness and originality to her poems, which are nonetheless poignant. She is able to express strong emotions without being sentimental. Her work has truly haunted me; it has entered the deepest layer of my being with its rare combination of directness and subtle nuances, ancient traditions and modernity."
Sujata Bhatt

"Ehin's poems are deeply personal, but not in a way that excludes the reader: quite the opposite, they draw the reader in, so that Ehin's life feels like our own, a fascinating glimpse into a different, simpler life lived close to nature. Reading these poems is like a holiday of the best kind: eye-opening, relaxing and different. Ehin's work is rooted in Estonian folk tradition, and music permeates both the forms and the language. I particularly relished her poems about parenthood, for their beauty and tenderness."

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 has written a play as well. The Drums of Silence (Oleander Press, 2007), a volume of her selected poems in English translation, was awarded the Poetry Society Corneliu M. Popescu Prize for European Poetry in Translation in 2007. Her other books in English translation are Põletades pimedustBurning the DarknessAn Dorchadas á Dhó (trilingual Estonian-English-Irish selected poems, Coiscéim, 2009), A Priceless Nest (short stories, Oleander Press, 2009), PäevaseiskajaSouth-Estonian Fairy Tales (Huma, 2009) and NoorkuuhommikNew Moon Morning (selected poems, Huma, 2007). She is often invited to take part in international arts and literary festivals and her work, poetry and prose, appears regularly in English translation in leading Irish and British literary journals. Her work has been translated into twelve languages. Kristiina’s reading at the Ledbury Poetry Festival (July 2010) was one of the highlights of the Festival.

Ilmar Lehtpere had a bilingual upbringing in Estonian and English. He is the translator of Kristiina Ehin’s The Drums of Silence (Oleander Press, 2007), which was awarded the Poetry Society Corneliu M. Popescu Prize for European Poetry in Translation. He has also translated her play, A Life Without Feathers, and has already started working on her next collection of poems in English. His own poetry has appeared in Estonian and Irish literary journals.

Sujata Bhatt was born in Ahmedabad, India, and grew up in Pune, India and in the United States. To date, she has published seven collections of poetry with Carcanet Press. The recipient of numerous awards, such as the Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Asia), and the Cholmondeley Award, her latest collection, Pure Lizard, was short-listed for the Forward Poetry Prize and received the German Literature Award, Das neue Buch, in 2008. She has translated poetry from Gujarati and German into English. Her work has been widely anthologised, broadcast on radio and television, and has been translated into more than twenty languages. She is a frequent guest at literary festivals throughout the world. Currently, she lives in Germany with her family.