Kristiina Ehin, born into a family of poets (1977 in Rapla) has become one of the most successful poets of the younger generation. Her fourth and most voluminous collection of poems, Kaitseala (Protected Area, 2005), written during a year spent as nature reserve warden on Mohni, an uninhabited island off the north coast of Estonia, was a real bestseller and received the Cultural Endowment of Estonia Poetry Prize. Her collection Luigeluulinn (Swan-Bone City, 2003) sold out three printings.

Kristiina Ehin began publishing her poems while a student at Tartu University, where she was a member of the literary group Erakkond (Group of Hermits). She has an M.A. in Comparative and Estonian Folklore from the University of Tartu for her research on archaic Estonian folk songs. She has sung in a folk music group and has worked as a translator, dance teacher, journalist as well as storyteller at a school for children with special needs. Her poetic prose first appeared in book form in a volume of short stories entitled Pillipuhujanaine ja pommipanijanaine (Pipe-Playing-Woman and Bomb-Laying-Woman, 2006). She has also written a book of fairy tales and a play.

She is frequently invited to participate in international literary festivals. In 2008, with the help of her parents Ly Seppel and Andres Ehin, she organized the 1st International Full Moon Poetry Festival, which had been a dream of hers for a long time. The festival brought together twenty-four poets, singers and songwriters from Estonia and abroad, from as far away as the Shetland Islands to the west and Japan to the east.

Kristiina Ehin’s poems have been translated into several languages: for example English, Russian, Swedish, Slovenian, Icelandic, Finnish, Slovak, Udmurt, Komi, German, Irish and Welsh. A volume of her selected poems, The Drums of Silence (2007), translated into English by Ilmar Lehtpere, won the Poetry Society Popescu Prize for European Poetry in Translation. The collection in English, The Scent of Your Shadow, a selection of poems from Ehin's book Emapuhkus (Maternity Leave, 2009), again in Ilmar Lehtpere's translation, published in April 2010 by Arc Publications, received the Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation award.

Her poems and prose are clearly written from a woman's point of view. The deep spiritual feeling in her sensitive and airy poetry is very earthy and strong with roots in Finno-Ugric culture. Ehin's work is strikingly modern and contemporary, yet at the same time full of age-old wisdom. She often turns to folklore and tradition and regards herself as heir to the ancient Estonian tradition of female singer-poets. Her poetry and prose reflect a strong sense of continuity, a holistic view of the world that treasures Estonia's ancient poetic and musical heritage, incorporating them into the world we live in today. Ehin has great reverence for nature, and celebrates her womanhood in her work. The love between man and woman, Fire and Water is also a recurring theme which she writes about with her characteristic honesty. Her latest poetry also has another focus, the deep feeling of a mother´s love towards her child.

 

Text by Ilmar Lehtpere


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