Doris Kareva is one of Estonia’s leading poets, admired especially for poems that balance precision and control with passion and bravado. Her achievement, according to Estonian Literature, is in writing poems which are both ‘plentiful and fragile like a crystal…balancing on the line between the human soul and the universe, between sound and silence’. Days of Grace spans over forty years of her poetic output, showing how the sustained depth and clarity of her poetry lies in her ability to create ambiguity and suggest harmony at the same time, with a multiplicity of meanings generating the opposite of clarity: a form of hinting which at its most illuminating becomes utterly oracle-like.
Such is the metaphysical sensitivity of her poetry that its moral charge is sensed almost physically. She has also been called ‘a priestess of love’ who is fearless as well as discreet in her portrayal of love that is so ‘pure and elevating like mountain air’ that she seems to be writing from another time or dimension.
'Fans of Yves Bonnefoy, who evokes similar textures and perceptions, will enjoy the clarity of these poems and, indeed, their grace.' - Henry King, Translation & Literature
'There is this sense of her being firmly rooted in her own experience, in the female body, yet at the same time being able to rise above it - often in quite spectacular fshion.' - Ian Marriott, Envoi [on Days of Grace]
‘There is a fierce austerity and dark humour in the language.’ – Ciaran Carson
‘McIlfatrick-Ksenofontov’s translations capture the barely capturable essence of Doris Kareva’s poems which, quite suddenly, make me think of snowflakes, crystalline, and yet on the cusp of disappearance.’ – Marius Kociejowski
Doris Kareva: Days of Grace
Doris Kareva launched her Days of Grace: Selected Poems at EstLitFest in London in April 2018, when Neil Astley also filmed her reading a selection of poems included in the book. In this video she reads the poems in Estonian, with Miriam McIlfatrick’s translations as subtitles, as well as reading a number of the translations in English and discussing her work at the end.