Magazine article World Literature Today

1001 Winters

Magazine article World Literature Today

1001 Winters

Article excerpt

Kristiina Ehin. 1001 Winters. Ilmar Lehtpere, tr. Fayetteville, New York. Bitter Oleander. 2012. isbn 978- 0978633585

Kristiina Ehin's voluminous bilingual (the original Estonian and English translation) collection of one hun- dred poems is permeated with the feeling of a need for closeness with the Other, a fellow being, and an interior dialogue with the invisible companion. The title evokes associa- tions with Scheherazade-the poems can be read as fascinating little tales narrated in the long, dark winters, the time that stories were usually told on country homesteads. Refer- ences to the richness of Estonia's nature and the specific customs and traditions-as well as tragic mem- ories-of the country's rural past abound, leaving impressions of the recent surface thin.

Befitting the author's education in Estonian and comparative folk- lore, numerous mythical and magic motifs suggest an ancient lyrical epic heritage along with intertextual ref- erences to the ballads of earlier poets ("Woman of Gold," "Swan Bone City," "My Sisters the Ravens," "Cows Come from the Sea," the figures of sea mother and sea maidens). The sen- sual intimacy that shapes the poems reflects the speaker's responsive- ness to the modeling influence of her native surroundings, her time, and the male presences in her life: "fidelity-rough as a man's cheek / raw meat that draws you close / a trail that remains / a trail that can't be abandoned. …

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