Poem by Doris Kareva, translated from Estonian by Miriam McIlfatrick-Ksenofontov
Perhaps the clearest expression of what drives Doris Kareva’s poetry appears in an article she has written about her father, the composer Hillar Kareva, where she says of both human existence and the act of creation: our means are limited, our possibilities limitless. The article is entitled “Lesson in Harmony” and therein lies the key to Kareva’s poetics—a striving for concord between that which seeks expression through language, and language which does not allow it to be expressed. At times, a truth seems to be half-hidden/half-revealed in and by the words; at others, the whole momentum of a poem seems to depend solely on the physicality of the words. I first encountered Kareva’s poetry as a student of the Estonian language when I was given a copy of Armuaeg (Days of Grace) for pronunciation practice. I clearly remember the pleasure I felt reading her poems aloud; I understood little more than isolated words and phrases, fragments of meaning, but the sounds and rhythm had already captivated me. To translate such poems into English has been to tread a path of discovery of the limits and the potential of my own language. MMK
This poem was published in Jul-Sep issue of The Indian Quarterly.