Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Igor Kotjuh: "An Esseme on Nostalgia"


Igor Kotjuh has written what he terms "essemes". The word "esseme" has been created analogously to words such as "morpheme", "grapheme" and "sememe", to denote the smallest unit of an essay. Kotjuh’s three "essemes" are on the subjects of nostalgia, on chance, and on literature and the meaning of life. Here is the first of these, a poem in blank verse about the said subject:

AN ESSEME ON NOSTALGIA

I long for the pen and the piano keyboard, I long
for the moment, a dream, someone dear and never met.
I long for the rain in the sultriness of summer and for the sun
on a misty day, I long for peace within and grow angry
when time stagnates. I was born in the Soviet Union,
and I have seen how Estonia has become a daughter of Europe.
I do not know which childhood I should recall,
for that reason I dare not dream or make plans.

I dash out poems in Cyrillic, they are read in Karelia
in Finnish. My parents, as well as their
parents spoke Russian or Belarusian,
Estonian, Setu, or Ukrainian. Is that not a Babel?
If languages are a part of culture and a great asset
then our family is worth as least as much
as the nobility and should rub shoulders with bankers.
But in fact my father is a tractor-driver, my mother a seamstress.

Monotonous work gives a certain hue
to holidays: you look forward to them to for ages, but
they give rise to a hollow feeling, one of disappointment.
That is probably why I like broad terraces
by the hotels of nobles, where candles flicker
on the tables, from the speakers comes super disco, it is evening,
the rain has subsided, the floor and the chairs glitter from the water
the ceiling of the hall, and hopelessness remains in shadow.

Sadness and enthusiasm! And between them – nothing at all.
Like a sandwich without butter. The best choice for the poor.
And so we arrive at the start, at childhood, social
sorrows, politics, rights. At subsistence and health,
plans and dreams. At contradictions of the heart
and beyond. And it is hard, almost impossible to leave
this jumble unscathed, one’s own and that of others
in order to enter into another life.

Translated from Estonian by Eric Dickens

2 comments:

  1. Poememes, novelemes, the list could be endless... :-)

    Thank you, Eric.

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  2. I found a more thorough potted biography of Igor Kotjuh and reproduce it here:

    Igor Kotjuh - potted biography

    Poet, translator, literary activist. Born 1978 in Võru, Estonia. Studied Estonian language and literature at Tartu University (dissertation on the difficulties of translating the experimental Moscow poet Lev Rubinstein into Estonian). Also studied translating and interpreting at Tallinn University. Works as a freelance journalist and translator, translates Estonian poetry into Russian. He is the editor of the Baltic literary website «Воздушный змей», (Vozdushnyi Zmei - Kite) and the electronic monthly «Новые облака» (New Clouds) and a series of books called «Первый полет» (First Flight). He has published in the Russian-language literary periodicals “Raduga” and “Tallinn” (Tallinn) “Chronos” (Daugavpils), Vozdushnyi Zmei” (Tartu), “Rets” (Kaliningrad) and “LiteraruS” (Helsinki. He has also published work in the Estonian-language literary magazines “Looming”, “Vikerkaar” and the cultural weekly “Sirp”. He has published two collections of poetry “ «Когда наступит завтра?» (Tallinn, 2005) and «Teises keeles» (Tallinn, 2007). He won the Looming Award in 2004 for his translations of Estonian poetry, and the Kangro Prize in 2007 for the Estonian-language poetry collection “Teises keeles”, as above. He is a member of the Estonian Writers’ Union. He lives in Võru, works in Tartu.

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