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Poems by Jüri Talvet (Estonia)

14 April 2019
Author :  

Jüri Talvet: Poet, essayist, literary critic, translator, university professorTalvet  was born on December 17, 1945 in Pärnu, Estonia. He graduated from the faculty of philology (specializing in English) from the University of Tartu. He received his PhD degree in Western literatures from Leningrad / Saint Petersburg University (1981).  Since 1992 he is Chairing Professor (of World Literature) at Tartu University and has been since 1996 the main editor of Interlitteraria, international journal of comparative literature.

         He made his debut with a book of poems, Äratused (Awakenings; Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1981). By today, he has published nine books of poetry in his native Estonian. In 2014 a voluminous personal anthology of his poetry appeared, comprising more than 500 poems: Eesti eleegia ja teisi luuletusi 1981-2012 (Estonian Elegy and Other poems 1981-2012, Tartu: Ilmamaa).

He has published dozens of essays and articles on world literature, which beside journals have appeared in: Teekond Hispaaniasse (A Travel to Spain; Tallinn, 1985), Hispaaniast Ameerikasse (From Spain to America; Tallinn, 1992), Hispaania vaim (The Spanish Spirit; Tartu, 1995), Ameerika märkmed ehk Kaemusi Eestist (American Notes, or Contemplations of Estonia; Tartu, 2000),  Sümbiootiline kultuur (Symbiotic Culture; Tartu, 2005), Tõrjumatu äär (The Irrefutable Border; Tartu, 2005), Juhan Liivi luule. Monograafia (Juhan Liiv's Poetry. A Monograph; Tallinn, 2012), Kümme kirja Montaigne'ile. "Ise" ja "teine" (Ten Letters to Montaigne. "Self" and "Other"; Tartu, 2014), Luulest (Of Poetry; Tartu, 2015) etc.

         He has been awarded for his work Juhan  Smuul Annual Prize of Literature (in essay, 1986), Juhan Liiv Poetry Prize (1997), Ivar Ivask Memorial Prize (2002), the Order of Isabel the Catholic (for his activity in Spanish studies, 1992), the White Star Order of Estonian Republic (2001), The Medal of Tartu (2008), the Order of the County of Alatskivi (2015), the Grand Medal of the University of Tartu, 2015,   the F. R. Kreutzwald Memorial Medal of the Võru Institute (2016) etc. In 2011 he became an Active Member of Academia Internationala Orient-Occident (Romania). Since 2016 he is member of Academia Europaea and Honorary Guest (Huésped Distinguido) of Salamanca (Spain).

         Since 2006, he has been an invited participant of important international poetry festivals all over the world.

Besides numerous translations published in magazines and anthologies, book-length selections of his poetry have appeared in Spanish (2002, 2010), English (2008, 2010), Italian (2012, 2018), Romanian (2011), French (2011, 2016), Russian (2018) and Serbian (2018).

         Of his essay books, the following have appeared abroad: A Call for Cultural Symbiosis (Toronto, 2005), Un enfoque simbiótico de la cultura posmoderna (Granada, 2009), Una crida a la simbiosi cultural (Valencia, 2009),  Meditazioni da U. Per una simbiosi culturale, (Novi Liguri, 2015).

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To the memory of dear Richard Caddel, friend and poet,

with the wish that he could return tomorrow at ten.                  

Did the rabbit taste good? Fine.
The salmon? Well. The world’s
pulse under your eyelids is indeed
a fine image. (At least you can
feign sleep.) The noble union
of physics with poetry: It’s fine
that one can at least relax
into the groove of a bar stool in a
warm small town in Georgia. (If
there’s room.) In both Delhis, however,
when it grows dark, only thinking
of gods in a temple, with a cool stone
in the knees, redeems one from the jungle.
Did what’s on the grill taste good? I’m glad. I
am happy. How was the chicken? I weave
a spider web for some stranger to get
caught in. Some other from far away,
on the edge. Some Indian cow,
covered with Hegel’s grey, boiled
spider web. (Thank you, Heinrich!)
You say you really won’t go? You
shall go tomorrow morning at ten.
And you will return tomorrow
morning at ten. Won’t you?





This dancing Santa on 42nd Street

maybe in front of Mazzotti’s shoe shop and

Maria means business on a Hudson riverbank

Maria Bartiramo to whom have you sold

your soul? – answer! And

a living Santa who wound you up

to foot a Greek or Catalan sardana

and to mutter occasionally into your beard

something about the special shine of Mazzotti’s shoes

Maria d’Aquino the whiteness of your knees

escapes for ever from the eyes of Giovanni

He is just an old man even without

his Santa’s beard and bushy eyebrows

or maybe it’s you Walt who looked on Broadway

for the thick necks of big young white men

and when you couldn’t find them any more

then the warm eyes of small Puerto Ricans

and when you couldn’t find them either you sat down

in your own yard under a lilac and wept

and mumbled like Francesco pace

pace pace and T. S. later and the ancient bards

long time before them and before you

šānti šānti šānti peace to my heart peace

to your heart too Maria Macolata





It’s funny today Anne Sexton a representative

of Microsoft sent me by e-mail

a purchase offer As if her namesake

whose poems I translate had been resurrected

You Anne who in The Fury of Overshoes

long for your tiny kindergarten winter boots

and Man and Woman whom you compare

to a pair of doves who live together but

don’t speak That precipice between

the genders that you couldn’t leap

even though you said you were a witch who knew

to fly on a broomstick Now in your second or in

who knows what life you are simply a woman

a tame mute mistress of a man named Microsoft


(Translated from the Estonian by H. L. Hix and the author)


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