Poetry mass

© Dmitri Kotjuh
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Venue: Niguliste Museum (see on map)
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If one is to be pedantic, it must be said that while it may look like a church, the St Nicholas’ Church is actually a museum of medieval and early modern art. This indicates the colourful and dramatic history of the building. Although it escaped Lutheran iconoclasm because the locks of the church were sealed with molten lead, the fires of the Second World War succeeded where religious reformers had failed. Flames have caused destruction in the church several times, most recently in the 1980s. However, the building still stands and hosts concerts and festivals, and, during the HeadRead festival, poetry readings. In light of the above, poetry fits in well under the pillars of the church – poetry fights the pillaging of language, preserving its vivid imagery. This year, the lineup is especially impressive. In addition to international guests like the Norwegian poet Knut Ødegård (1945) and Scottish authors Kathleen Jamie and James Robertson, and Basque writer Kirmen Uribe, the roster also includes eight notable Estonian poets: Eda Ahi, Boriss Baljasnõi, Aime Hansen, Hasso Krull, Carolina Pihelgas, Triin Soomets and Veronika Kivisilla

Kathleen Jamie

Kathleen Jamie (1962) is a Scottish poet and essayist. Her debut collection of poems Black Spiders was published in 1982 and demonstrated Jamie’s distinct talent – her need to move in different landscapes and worlds, whether around or inside people. Jamie’s travels are reflected in her poetry and other works. She has produced travel writing and essays about travelling, publishing books on her trips to Pakistan and Tibet. She has also worked with other artists; in 1993, she published the book The Autonomous Region with photographer Sean Mayne Smith about her stay in China, combining the author’s personal observations with the history of the region. A lot of her travel writing is collected in her 2004 book Among Muslims. Jamie’s most celebrated book of poems is her collection from 2004 entitled The Tree House.

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James Robertson

James Robertson (1958) is a Scottish author who has written novels, short stories, poetry and children’s books. Robertson takes his subject matter from the history of Scotland – his 2000 debut prominently features the activities of the 17th century Scottish Presbyterians; the titular protagonist of his next novel Joseph Knight is also a historical figure, a man sold into slavery in Jamaica, who went to court in 1778 to attain freedom. Robertson’s most successful novel The Testament of Gideon Mack (2006) turns its gaze from history to more timeless questions like religion and relations with God. His most recent novel To Be Continued… (2016) is set in the modern world, shortly after the Scottish independence referendum. It is a funny story about an exchange between a 50-year-old journalist who likes drink a little too much, and a talking toad named Mungo. To Be Continued… is a book about writing and the mentality and landscapes of Scotland. James Robertson will talk to writer and translator Jüri Kolk.

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Kirmen Uribe

Kirmen Uribe (1970) is a Basque writer who is considered an important voice of his generation not only in the Basque Country but all of Spain. His first collection of poems Bitartean heldu eskutik (Meanwhile Take My Hand), published in 2001, was called “a quiet revolution” in Basque literature. His first novel Bilbao-New York-Bilbao (2008) is a fragmented firework of different forms, set during a seven-hour flight from Bilbao to New York. Sitting on the plane allows the author to contemplate his homeland, family, generation and, at the background, himself. This breakthrough was followed by his 2012 novel Mussche. Its title character, a Belgian author named Robert Mussche takes in one of the 19 000 Basque children exiled after the bombing of Guernica. The Spanish Civil War also features in Uribe’s novel Elkarrekin esnatzeko ordua (The Hour of Waking Together), published in 2016. Kirmen Uribe will talk to Eneko Erauzkin, the communications manager of the association Kaixo Estonia that promotes Estonian and Basque cooperation.

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Knut Ødegård

© Anna Julia Granberg

Knut Ødegård (1945) is a Norwegian poet, translator and literature promoter. He has published more than 50 books, including 15 books of poetry. Ødegård is probrably the most translated contemporary Norwegian poet with translations in more than 40 languages to his name, most recently the Estonian collection of poems Olin imiku nutt varisenud keldris (2018). Translator Øyvind Rangøy decribes Ødegård’s poetry as follows: “He combines the ecclesiastic and the folk, the conservative and the radical, madness and common sense, the worlds of children and adults. In his world of poetry, a tension is formed between his almost baroque abundance of details and unexpected simplicty or even vulgarity, and he also likes contrasts between unending darkness and the beauty of universe.”  Knut Ødegård lives in Iceland and 2013-2016 saw the publication of four volumes of the collection of songs know as the Poetic Edda, translated by him into nynorsk or New Norwegian. From 1992, Ødegård has been organising the Bjørnson literary festival in his hometown Molde, which is one of the most important literary events in Norway.

Knut Ødegård will perform at the Poetry Mass at the St Nicholas’ Church on Sunday 27 May at 12 pm.

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