Our last adventures in America - in Washington, Long Island and fleeing from a lout in New York
After New York, Washington... hmm, at first I kept looking up out of habit acquired following a week between skyscrapers, but there's no point here. Today my eyes have come down to Estonian level again. I have a good, homely feeling.
Here there are beautiful low houses, big gardens, a lot of green and nature, great monuments, lush Virginia grass. But also women in proper suits, men with briefcases, official talk and a bit of careless elegance... a helicopter rumbling past to transport some government official from one roof-top landing pad to another.
At the moment I am having breakfast here in the garden of Jane Raub, an Estonian abroad, and a bird has decided to indulge our ears with background music. For some reason it seems that the bird simply needs this moment of self-expression. And I like to think that it knows that at least I am listening attentively.
Yesterday I stood on the the top step of the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King declared, "I have a dream".
And I wondered what dreams I have for Estonia that I can't keep to myself. I asked the question here at breakfast with Jane Raub. Jane said, "Let's be more tolerant, Let's not speak or think badly of anyone."
Silver says that everyone has become so focused on success that only money moves people from one country to another... And the village boy's dream that "When I come back from Norway, I'll buy a motorbike and a new house. I'll build an ideal world here in the village and put up a wooden fence around it..."
He says that the Estonian state has unfortunately failed spiritually. It has no creed of its own, there are all sorts of esoteric tendencies and reconstructions of creeds...but the most common creed is the song festival. Nothing else. But is that enough?
I have a feminine sort of dream that birdsong and the beauty of a meadowflower won't become an estranged sort of placard in our minds that, for fear of kitsch, we don't allow near us. That we don't, just in case, go around with our noses in the air as if we were between imaginary skyscrapers. That we dare to be our own height. That we aren't ashamed, that we don't flail. That we don't subconsciously assure ourselves ten times every day through the media and elsewhere that we are successful, we have Skype and the Tiger's Leap IT development programme... to cover up the quagmire of some inferiority complex. That we are as tall as we are...that is my dream today.
We have been following the Estonian election campaign with interest. It seems that at the end of the day it can't be possible that any thinking person would vote for Savisaar.
We went to visit Hellar and Irja Grabbi. Stepping over their threshold was like arriving back home - so much Estonian literature and art, stories and memories about our history and culture. We sat on the sofa where former presidents Arnold Rüütel and Lennart Meri had slept, though of course not together.
Irja Grabbi - as if the lilacs in the vase have just been picked on the farm
Hellar says that he only regrets that Mana, the literary magazine he was director and editor of and which connected Estonian literature at home and abroad, couldn't appear more regularly.
Yesterday we went to visit Silver's relatives. Silver met them for the second time in his life. Bill's grandfather and Silver's great-grandfather were brothers, if I remember correctly. Bill was born in America but is of pure Estonian descent. Plucking his banjo at home in his living room he says " My father never talked about Estonia. Once he said that this river here in Dakota is like the way out to sea between the jetties in Treimani harbour. He said it was all just the same. Later, when I went to free Estonian and sailed out from Treimani harbour, I understood what Father meant and for me it was a very important moment of recognition.
We look for the exotic on our travels, but for me the most important moments have been those where things are the same - that things that unite are greater than the things that separate.
Here we are driven from one garden of paradise to another. Rushes sway at head height. We rehearse in the sunshine amid the chirping of crickets and birdsong (again those beautiful fixed expressions. I'll try not to be ashamed of them).
Ten performances done, two to go. European House tonight and NY Public Library tomorrow...
The event at European House was quite rousing. I felt that I had a lot of energy. And we got very positive feedback from Ambassador Marina Kaljurand and, François Rivasseau, the Deputy Head of of the European Union Delegation. The organisers thought our performance was the best of the series.
François Rivasseau and Marina Kaljurand in the audience…
Many thanks to Maria Belovas for organising everything so smoothly and magnificently!
Marina Kaljurand introoducing us…
In the European Union building...
At the Estonian Embassy in Washington...
My leg has slowly started to heal. I pulled a muscle in NY running away from a lout. In a relatively deserted street in Greenwich village we came face to face with a man who tried to block our way and agressively started rushing at Silver. We remembered Ilmar Lehtpere's words that if anyone acts too strangely in NY, the best thing to do is run. And that is just what we did. We ran for our lives. The man running for his life after us. We ran the whole length of the street. And at the very moment when I felt that something went in my thigh and I couldn't run any more, the man gave up and went bacjk the way we had come, grumbling "Fast guys...". We were faster than him. But since then I've been going round with a bit of a limp and have been skipping my morning run. But tonight we are planning to go to a Cuban Salsa club after our performance and there I will try to walk more properly...
Unfortunately, in Washington it was impossible to find a good place to go dancing after eleven. Like weekdays in Tartu or Viljandi, I thought. But it was an experience in itself to to take in the last draughts of the capital's air in full sail with a group of blonde-haired Estonian girls.
In general we felt as if we'd been expected for a long time. The artist and poet Amore B. wrote a poem for us on her way home from our poetry and music evening and posted it on the Cross Cultural Communications poets' list. She stressed that it was a spontaneous poem of her impressions and as such we find it especially kind.
for Katriina and Silver
Tall, blond, slim,
Poet and music-maker
each a master
of their craft
Joined in love
She, a weaver
of magical words
images in the space
before our eyes
He, calling forth
from wood and steel,
Dancing with bow
and drumsticks to
the tune of his
A marriage of spirits
Sharing with us
the purity of their
A rare glimpse
into an inner
world that holds
the outer in a
like Rumi, of
the divine in
with their visions
Performing at the universities I sometimes felt that I had to explain that if there are sea maidens, the daughters of the Livonian Sea Mother in my poems, then these are not beauty-queen proportioned, happy-end Disney characters with long eyelashes, but rather... well, those who understood, did, and those who didn't understand couldn't be helped by explanations. And the audience reacted with great surprise when I mentioned that in our adult lives Silver and I had gone through a long period without a TV and we didn't particularly miss it.
Yet Americans still left the impression of being actively involved in traditional culture. All the multi-cultural aspects here, the halloween ghosts and the children whose imaginations are inspired by these as much as our children by old Estonian St Martin's and St Katharine's traditions, which also involve masked visitings. Yes, one might say that that it's all commerce, but I would have nothing against Martin's and Katharine's Day masks being sold, alongside the candles and other things. I also don't understand why no one in Estonia has thought of making dolls of the characters in Oskar Luts's classic novels. I know lots of girls who would throw their Barbies in the corner for a Teele doll. Why not make traditional holidays and cultural history part of popular culture? In global terms this element of Estonian pop culture would be a quirky niche product. There are those among us who would say these old traditional Estonian holidays have too deep a significance... and there are those who say they have lost their meaning. I believe the truth is somewhere in between. But there is no explanation for adopting other cultures' pumpkins and skeletons.
On the few free days we had it was lovely to go to Orient Village in the slightly yellowed woods of Long Island, a three-hour bus ride away from New York, where Epp and Justin Petrone live with their children. For the last few stops the bus was quite empty and we could entertain ourselves and the Ethiopian bus driver with music and song. Getting off the bus it felt like we had arrived at the end of the world. And straightaway we quickly cycled out to the ocean to the island's tip closest to Europe. Epp claimed that the infamous island where animals are experimented on could be seen from there.
A car got stuck in the sand and despite our men having the strength of farm horses, they couldn't manage to push it out and the driver had to call a tow truck to pull it out.
Some time later Epp and I found an old rusty fire engine overgrown by the thicket. It was like discovering an ancient civilization in the jungle. I'd like to go back there one day.
Suddenly news came from Estonia that Silver had received the Ethno-ladle award for best instrumentalist. At that very moment we encountered a sign on our cyclepath: "Watch out - turtle crossing!" We went on a photo hunt for turtles and Silver looked as if he'd been hit on the head with a real ladle. He says his energy has gone into disguising the fact that he actually doesn't know how to play any instrument. On getting back he immediately found an atomobile repair yard near Epp's and Justin's, where there was all sorts of inspiring clutter. Watching him "play" a rusty tractor, a bucket, an oil drum and an old fire engine, using some strips of metal, I realised how lucky we were that not a single turtle had crossed our path. Who knows what thoughts might have crossed the mind of my husband, the fantasy drummer.
Epp and Justin live in a lovely house in the middle of a spacious field of grass, where there are deer and rabbits hopping around. Visiting them was a true holiday for us, full of salty sea air and thoughts of finding our home in this round world, where all roads hopefully lead... back to Estonia.
Our Bill, or William Wolak is the most cheerful and optimistic poet I have ever met. He was the one who usually drove us from place to place, took photos, and kept us in a good mood on very long journeys and when a feeling of jumping into the water arose before performances. It was sad to wave good-bye to him yesterday. I hope we find a reason to tempt you to Estonia soon, Bill.
We have twelve performances behind us. 700 people came to hear us. Many said that it was difficult to classify our performances - a mixture of poetry, song, prose, music, dance and story telling. Some performances were of a more academic nature, at others no one remained in their seat and the celebration and the dancing didn't want to end. For the last performances we developed a song that we sang and played together - "Viimased lumeta päevad - The Very Last Days Without Snow". I felt that it expressed something that was in the air and in many hearts, not only our own.
At the New York Public Library, our last performance, in a beautiful old building in the heart of New York... Apparently we were the first Estonians to ever perform there.
There were many surprise guests at the Public Library performance. Like the well-known songwriter Mark Barkan together with his daughter, and well-known poets from various parts of New York... There were many surprising moments where I didn't know what was coming... but everything went well and rousingly, and I felt that it was indeed a knowledgable literary audience that dared to express itself with applause and exclamations.
Many thanks to you Kristi Roosma Tootell for organising this special event. We're keeping our fingers crossed for you, our songbird.
And finally - again on the way over the ocean... "back to Estonia, where the swans and the children are taking flight" as I wrote in a poem. I have no wish to travel for some time but perhaps I will need to go on an unexpected happy trip to London, for this morning came the news that 1001 Winters - 1001 talve has been shortlisted for the Poetry Society Popescu Prize for poetry in translation, and the award ceremony, where the winner will be named, will take place in London on 29 November.
Here I would like to thank my American publishers, Paul B. Roth of Bitter Oleander Press, and Stanley Barkan of Cross Cultural Communications. It's a wonder that a publisher notices and wishes to publish poetry from over the ocean, beyond the borders of language. Many thanks to my translator Ilmar Lehtpere for organising this great tour. I don't know how you did it. The logistical demands were so great that I was amazed at every moment how well everything flowed and, even when the telephones didn't work, there was always someone there to meet us wherever we went. And thank you for the translations that were and continue to be good to read. Thank you too, Sadie Murphy for your dear support. In America we heard many stories about your times there, Sadie and Ilmar.
Highland Journey, Sadie's moving true-life story about her lifelong friendship with her bull was published in the US. Congratulations! We brought copies of the book back to her in Viljandi.
Thank you William Wolak, Maria, Joan Digby and John Digby. Thanks to your friendship we got to know many special people and places. You were most inspiring.
Thank you to Kristine for putting us up in your sunny B&B in the witches' town of Salem. Thank you Epp and Justin for so kindly putting us up in your Orient Village home. And to you Renna Unt for the memorable skyscraper room. And thank you for keeping an eye on us in New York. You were our guardian angel.
Storm clouds approaching over New York... the view from Renna's window.
Safety in all weathers with Renna...
Thank you Maria Belovas for organising stylish events in Washington. Thank you Katrin, Joe, Margit, Enriko, Jane and Axel, Triinu and all of our Mexican restaurant gang for the high spirits and tasty food in Washington.
Thank you Kristi Roosmaa Tootell for the refreshing care you gave us after a long busride from Washington before our performance at NY Public Library. It was our last in New York and thanks to you and the consulate it was a very enjoyable event.
Thank you New York Estonian consul Sten Schwede for taking the time to let us all get to know each other better and for driving us to Washington so comfortably. The distance seemed shorter than from Tartu to Tallinn.
There are others I would like to thank. Thank you to the Cultural Endowment of Estonia and the Ministry of Culture for their support. Thank to the Estonian Literature Information Centre and Ilvi Liive for their help and support in organising and preparing our tour. Thank you to Katrin Albaz of the Estonian House in New York for organising an enjoyable performance and to Bruce Katzer and his son Karl for kindly putting us up in their home near the banks of the Hudson River, and to the many kind people we met on our trip. Thank you to our families and friends and all those who kept their fingers crossed for us.
(Back in Estonia. The days and nights are mixed up anyway and it requires a special effort of will to come to terms with the fact that, after the elections, our capital is still Savisaargorod. But Silver has no worries and plans to follow his relatives' invitation to go to small western Estonian islands to catch sheep. And my son Hannes looks into the shop windows and asks, "Mummy why are the pumpkins with faces supposed to be horrible?"
has just opened the window and shouted "Good morning
America!" down to 37th St teeming 90 metres below.
The poor fellow only just woke up and didn't even see what conscientious people
like myself saw several hours ago - the sun rising big and red over Queens, heaving itself up to reflect in the East River, pouring a yellowish-pink glow over the grey piers, the first drowsy joggers and me, who was standing somewhere on the border between sleep and wakefulness on the 28th floor behind huge windows, holding an earthenware teacup in my hands... This city makes me a little moonstruck and without my kind hostess Renna Unt's bookshelves full of Estonian literature I probably wouldn't have fallen asleep at all (the therapeutic effect of the mother tongue, Estonian forests, bogs, moors, safely quarrelsome people...)
After the little seaside town of Oyster Bay( which reminded me a bit of Rapla, the town I grew up in), where the crickets chirp loudly as they should in September and all the pigeons, gulls, cats and dogs act as if there are no cities with buildings stretching up to the sky, this first sunrise in New York feels as if I have landed on another planet, which has nevertheless always been here, very close, only an hour's drive away. Our hostess in Oyster Bay was Joan Digby, lecturer, poet, author of many books and publisher. She's a real New York woman - very active, cheerful, determined. In her there is none of the auntie that in Estonia can easily develop with the years. If she likes the music, she dances. If she really likes it, she sings - in the kitchen, living room or stuck in a traffic jam. Her mother had taught her to drive in New York - "Now pull in to the right in front of the bus, now slip through between the taxis, quickly pull into the tunnel, get in the right lane, step on it, go!" If some driver on the roads between New York and Oyster Bay annoys her, she reacts straight away. But her nerves generally seem to be under control. She goes riding on her white Snowball several times a week, has two cats - Daisy and Sissi - plays tennis and feeds a colony of fifteen cats she established from the goodness of her heart near the university. Joan in fact seems younger than many people of my own age, yet there is the secure rooted world of Estonian mothers and grandmothers in her - even the food she prepares seems to be straight from Estonian festivities.
One of her colony of cats twirls curiously around Silver. With her infectious energy Joan managed to tempt me to go riding. For some reason I have always been a bit frightened of horses, though I've always been attracted to them. But some guarded streak in me has always found reasons for not getting in the saddle. But now I rode for an hour like in some old western, still towards New York.
I could go on about our hosts in Oyster bay for a very long time. Joan's husband is John Digby, poet, translator, surrealist and one of America's most famous collagists, who has written books on the subject, had dozens of exhibitions and produced thousands of works.
For health reasons John wasn't able to go to our performance, so we improvised a literature and music evening for him and he responded in kind.
Here John is playing the role of the Estonian grandfather. The hat was given to him long ago by Sadie and Ilmar. I think it is no exaggeration to say that John's sense of humour is as riotous as any I have ever encountered. He is English and says his black sense of humour was born of a survival instinct in the face of America's "nation of idiots". Joan chuckles and obviously doesn't feel offended. I tried to write down some of John's wit but on paper it seems like a pitiful shadow of the real thing. But nevertheless: John says that the most important thing in keeping house is putting the work of male and female poets on separate shelves, even in separate rooms. He admits that he didn't use to know that and the bookshelves kept filling up, the books procreated and the piles of books kept growing. But now he is careful to keep them apart and the number of books has begun to shrink. At least there are no new additions he announces with a sigh of relief. We sit down to dinner. Silver isn't there. We call him. Finally I go into the back garden to summon him, but he still doesn't come. John is obviously getting impatient. Finally Joan, holding a big knife in her hand, brings the roast and puts it on the table. It is much like in Estonia - a big lean hunk of meat with potatoes, all swimming in gravy. John looks at Joan and the roast with a petrified air "What did you do to him? Where is the rest of Silver?" he asks his wife in a voice brimming with horror. We come back from our performance- John is lying down in his room. I look in. I happen to be wearing a black, flowing, festive dress. John gives me a sharp look and interrupts me saying: You've come to a funeral but as you can see I'm still alive. Today John insisted that I buy him a second hand coffin when he pops his clogs. He assured me that second hand things are all more durable. During breaks in his work, which demands a high degree of precision, he always stresses that if he had to choose, he would rather give up his testicles than his spectacles. But to my mind the best example of his fiery turn of mind is preserved in this video. By way of explanation I only want to say that John passionately loves Dadaist manifestations. This is one of them.
We have arrived at Long Island University Poetry Center. Our performance will begin in this hall in a few minutes. It's full of people. A few minutes before starting I hear that the US government has closed down. It sounds a bit frightening, but now I've understood that Americans make ironic jokes about it in the manner of "good thing they shut it down - now they'll finally see we can manage quite well without them."
People had come from near and far and it's difficult to imagine a more congenial place to perform.
Hannes and Emma, here is another picture of our horses.
And here is a picture of Joan, who has just given her horse a kiss. "You have to kiss horses, then they will love you!" she explains.
A few days ago in Oyster Bay we went to Thodore Roosevelt's grave. Nearby there was a chipmunk who seemed to be paying its respects. It didn't move when we approached.
And it just happened to be the anniversary of his wife Edith's death.
Whether it was a dream or reality, a woman was sitting nearby with an owl on her arm. The owls name was Tipsu or something like that and made me laugh with its three-centimetre claws and needlesharp beak.
Last night in New York we went to see the Blue Man Group, a famous group who play sewer pipes. They've been performing for twenty-two years and the theatre is still always sold out. There's more circus than music. At some point I think everyone felt queasy. At the end of the performance thousands of metres of toilet paper was pulled down from the ceiling, the audience thrashed about in the ear-splitting sound of sewer drums, 100% America and 100% entertainment. Taking pictures was unfortunately only allowed in the foyer.
The most exciting thing that happened to me on my birthday, spanning continents and the history of music, was at one end meeting the songwriter Mark Barkan (he's the brother of Kristiina's publisher Stanley Barkan) together with Bob Marley and at the other end a song I wrote for my band Bombillaz entitled "Vaigust nukk" (Resin Doll), or more precisely a tiny little part paraphrasing Bob Marley.
“Poi-poi-poi po-po poi-poi Poi-poi-poi po po-po poi-poi” in case anyone happens to know it.
At dinner it came out that Mark Barkan has written about 8000 songs, eighty of them have been sung into the charts by various singers, among them Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley and .many others, various songs have been in 24 different musicals, and so on.
When we were talking about his copyrights, he said there is only one thing he has never been paid a cent for, namely a snippet Bob Marley had pinched for his song Buffalo Soldier. And then it came out I that I had pinched the very same bit of a tune as a quotation in honour of the king of reggae.in my song "Vaigust nukk". In other words I was sitting at the table together with the man whose bit of a tune I have been singing for years without knowing who had actually written it. Such a coincidence can probably only happen in New York, along with the feeling that you could in a small way be bound up in a much greater system than you can imagine.
It turned out that Bob Marley had woken up one morning and heard the theme tune of the children's programme Banana Split on TV, and the la-la part had continued to haunt him.
The composer of that tune was Mark Barkan.
Bob Marley put that phrase into his Buffalo Soldier.
And the spread of that little snippet to Estonia was guaranteed by means of an appearance by Bombillaz on breakfast television.
What a wonderful coincidence to be sitting at the same table with the composer of that snippet and and to learn that by coincidence you are connected in ways you had no idea of.
For those interested in copyright, Mark said he hadn't asked for anything from Marley because "He was such a nice guy." But he has earned quite a lot from another version of that song, The Dickies' "Tra La La Song", which was a big hit in England.
You can hear the whole story straight from the horse's mouth:
That concludes this lesson in the history of pop music.
Uncategorized Today is my birthday. I am celebrating longer than on any other birthday before. We already started on the evening of the 28th, when the party started at the poetry club in Salem with a birthday song, to which I added a bagpipe song so that all the neighbours were danced onto their feet. As I have now reached the venerable age of 31, it was good to begin my birthday in the worthy company of elder Americans.
The singing began in the town of Salem on the evening of the 28th Estonian time. Ladies, please sing:
Next to the poetry house there was another house, where they were doing something else quite familiar. A fellow with Lithuanian roots was trying to set some sort of New York drum playing record. He had already been at it for twelve hours and planned to carry on for another couple of days. In Viljandi it's completely normal to have the thudding of drumming resound into the street. I walked past with my nail instrument and I was immediately invited in and hooked up to the loudspeakers. A very pleasant random jam session with small-town hippies and hipsters.
At night, when my birthday began according to US time, Kristiina lit 31 candles and set off the smoke alarm at our B&B and brought out all the birthday spells acquired in Salem's witch shops along with other wondrous bits. Sadly there was no sprinkler system in the rooms and so a party with lots of falling water and men in uniforms didn't happen. The lovely people of the house sang Happy Birthday to You again. Kristiina represented the more traditional great god of song Vanemuine, with vowels that the people and dogs of the house very nicely crooned along with.
I've developed a bond with dogs on this trip through poetry. I have been specializing in poetry readings for dogs. As a mark of gratitude for my poetry , the guards of our B&B came to congratulate me on bahalf of all four-legged friends.
Then I went to bed and when I woke up, it was still my birthday, like in a fairy tale.
We woke up at 5 o'clock to rattle off to New York.
I've been to New York once, but Kristiina hasn't. New York welcomed Kristiina very warmly. The first café we went to gave us a free lunch. There was just one catch (as is usually the case with a free lunch): a trayful of half-empty coffee cups fell from the waiter's hand into our dear companion Bill's lap, which was of course a regrettable incident, but I have never had such a tasty birthday cake with so many fresh raspberries as the one served up by way of apology. In any case we learned our first dodge for getting by in New York - if you want to eat for free, let yourself have coffee poured over you.
Kristiina practising English pronounciation with Bill while zipping through the background is the man who is just about to start flinging coffee.
Birthday at the Synogogue
The poetry reading was in the cellar of one of the USA's oldest synogogues. The audience was made up entirely of poets whose work has been published by Cross Cultural Communications. They have also published Kristiina's new book In a Single Breath..
As the publisher's name suggests, there was a real crossroads of cultures in that cellar. The poets read poetry in their mother tongues Italian, Sicilian, Yiddish, English, Estonian, Bengali and Turkish along with English translations. Bill Wolak also read his translations from Persian. After the reading we feel as if people have been expecting us for a long time. As a present we get many deep, warm expressions of gratitude and thoughts about our culture, music, nail instrument and poetry.
The poetry reading ends with Stanley H. Barkan, the founder and director of Cross Cultural Communications, reading his New York poetry.
Afterwards some of the poets were taken out to eat and evening started to close in on my second birthday as that song that had been following me around rang out again:
Soon it was night and we went back to Oyster Bay: I'm saving something else exciting that happened in New York for my next entry. On getting back it was lovely to read many birthday emails and hundreds of facebook messages The crowning one was completely unexpected - My dear fellow Setus and Estonians sang something very exotic to me.
Thank you to all my birthday celebrants near and far, on this and the other side of the ocean, past and future, who were part of this day, or will take part in this long celebration in the future by means of this journal.
Kristiina: Mad start to the USA visit - I signed a petition for the protection of moths' balls
Our day at Niagara Falls and our picnic there, which a policeman broke up very politely when we were already getting ready to go (much in the manner of "all right, finish your song, finish your sandwich but then, forgive me but I'm afraid I have yo ask you to leave - this is actually private property"...a fact that would never have occurred to me on this little patch of grass a few dozen metres away from the waterfall) in any case the uncovered parts of my body had been left with quite a tan...
America has begun for me charmingly yet wildly. Silver hasquite tempestuously begun writing poems and his muses are mainly the local dogs. The days continue to be sunny and it seems that that bright Niagara Falls day is going on and on. Actually by evening I don't remember where this day began. In general hundreds and hundreds of kilometres from here where Halloween pumpkins rolled out in front of the houses glow through the early morning mist (they and all sorts of brooms, masks and spiderwebs are already selling like hotcakes everywhere). My first impressions of Americans are engaging and funny. To tell the truth I haven't laughed so much in a long time, especially about myself. After the ease of the company of Estonians abroad in Canada, it's difficult to make myself understood - not because of the language, but because it's necessary to speak fast, clearly and briefly so people don't tire of listening. So I often have to say the same thing several times. But when understanding has been achieved, comes the fulfillment of all wishes. I suppose this is the famous American dream.
Although we have been here for only four days, it's already difficult to put everything in my head into chronological order. But using photos I'll try to remember a few things. But I'll start with a few pictures I left out of my last entry in Canada.
This is the museum of my childhood dreams - a relative once came here and told me horror stories (they didn't have a camera) and I really wanted to come, but now twenty years later these dinosaurs don't seem so big and powerful. Though somewhere in the Jurassic period in the place where Toronto would be in the future I wouldn't have wanted to encounter one. Last day in Toronto at the Museum of Paleontology.
On the steps of the bookshop before the performance
Our first performance was at the Grolier Poetry Bookshop, the oldest poetry bookshop in the US, directly next to Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts was teemng with Friday evening student life, and the bookshop, where all famous poets from T.S. Eliot to the Beats and up to the present day have appeared, felt endearingly old-fashioned and dignified.
The two main culprits of our trip - my bilingual books of poetry 1001 Winters - 1001 talve and In a Single Breath - Ühe hingetõmbega in the Grolier Poetry Shop window.
The owner of the Grolier, Ifeany Menkiti, American poet and philosophy lecturer from Nigeria points to photos of the famous poets who have appeared in the bookshop since 1927. Meeting Ifeany and his wife has been one of the loveliest moments of recognition on this US tour.
Ifeany and some of the audience with Silver's nail instrument...
In the front window the bookshop commemorated the Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor, who died in the Kenyan shopping mall terrorist attack.
Together with poets Bill Wolak and Kristine on her veranda in the witch's town of Salem. We got to hear which houses are haunted and who is going with whom, felt very sunny days and magical hospitality... and my dream of someday having a B&B like Kristine's revived - a place where friends, poets and artists would be made to feel welcome. To have room and light for all my dear people, animals and birds.
Here is a lovely poem by Kristine about just that:
On the way to Gloucester...
Boston has become a distant mirage...
I saw this lobster in my dreams that night. It said that it was sorry to see that I had to feel such pangs of conscience for eating it.
Hannes, we took a picture of this aquarium fish for you..
Farewell to our Salem garret on the third floor...
This Halloween decoration seems endearingly doleful to me.
…So, where was this taken...probably in Boston...
On the steps of Harvard…
The queue at our first reading;)
Oh, sorry.. these people are actually waiting for Steven King, who was appearing in the same town at the same time. A little competition for audience is normal under such circumstances.
Still a free day...;)
Today there really isn't a performance. Almost unbelievable! Singing and dancing...three Kristiinas meet by chance on the breakwater, surround Silver, who is allowed to make a wish...and tomorrow is his birthday.
I'm as close to being a peacock, as is possible in this life...
The New York reading was striking for its warm and avant-garde nature. Here the artist and poet B. Amore is presenting her work.
In his home Stanley Barkan, who organized our first New York reading, later showed us all the books that he has published in over thirty years. I was very pleased to find my great favourite Edith Södergran among them. Stanley says that his mission is to bring different cultures closer together by means of literary translation. The great majority of the books published by Cross Cultural Communications have been published in billingual editions, like my In a Single Breath - Ühe hingetõmbega.
How was Toronto?
KRISTIINA: On 18 September, when we finally managed to open our eyes, we found ourselves amid a big collection of Estonian art in the beautiful apartment of Vaike Külvet. The voice of Vaike's late husband Ilmar Külvet is forever bound up with my childhood through the Voice of America, "This is the Voice of America, Washington, with the news...listen to our next broadcast in half an hour."
KRISTIINA: Vaike's window opens out onto Bay Street, one of Torontos main arteries, which speeds out of the city and ends 1500 kilometres away.
SILVER: The first time I set foot out on the street I immediately stumbled upon North America's "body and soul" - jazz!!! There was a a dubious old woman rambling on, sitting on a chair, tapping her rings on the armrests, all the while wailing scat. On seeing me she started singing "Hello, I'm Josephine..."
KRISTIINA: After my lecture at the Tartu College symposium "Small Cultures in a Big World", we stood in the position we spent most of our time in during our stay here, though the company was delightful. From the left, Vaike Külvet, Eda Sepp, S.S., K.E., Urve Karuks and Piret Noorhani (who kindly invited us to Canada and says that she is in Toronto on a mission. Under her guidance there is an archival library taking shape on the shelves and the building is full of bright-eyed young assistants). Urve Karuks is the only remaining writer among the older generation of Estonians abroad in Toronto, whereby she is a most charming woman approaching her eightieth birthday, with whom we sped between the skyscrapers in her new white car at great speed. Eda Sepp gave me a boxful of feminist literature. It will arrive in Estonia in February - Estonian machos had better watch out. The spring of eternal youth and peace of everyday meditation shine from Vaike Külvet's eyes.
In the evening we performed our new programme "Every Moment is a Well". We didn't notice any empty seats in the hall, nor anyone who didn't sing along in Estonian.
Filmmaker Anu Aun spoke at the symposium on the universal language of film, and on Saturday, in a hall filled with people, we watched five very distinct films by Anu.
On Sunday we presented a workshop on Estonian folk song and folk dance to a wide circle of interested people.George Rutky came hundreds of miles to take part. He was invited by the master Estonian kannel builder Rait Pihlap, who has made several kannels for George. George is a real Estonia and Latvia fan. In the picture he is holding his own kannel and the kusli belonging to the Latvian Dace, which he had dreamt of touching for years.
That evening we were left to sing and dance some more at Tartu College. In the glow of the full moon over the lake we extended our trip back to the hotel by several hours for a spontaneous nighttime tour of the city, which the Kiilaspea family had kindly offered to take us on. SILVER: I suddenly received a text message from Sophie, who I had met by chance at the Little Sunshine Café. She introduces Cuban culture to Toronto. I have always told Kristiina that I won't go anywhere to dance salsa if there isn't a big salsa band on stage. We got the big Cuban band “Havana D’primera” and a secret private lesson into the bargain. It was quite tempestuous and funny.
Visiting and performing at the edge of the world - Ehatare retirement home left so many impressions that we don't know where to begin. And the same must be said of the Estonian School.
KRISTIINA: Silver is right in saying that there are few natural phenomena that continue roaring in your ears and sparkling before your eyes for hours after you have left. There is good reason to look forward to encountering such a great force of nature again. And also to meeting all the lovely Estonians abroad in Canada again.
In Canada beside the great waterfall
We are starting to keep a diary of our Canada-USA tour. To begin with, a picture of something like the springtime flooding in Soomaa National Park and along the banks of Emajõgi river, broad stretches of land under water. The only difference is that at the border between Canada and the US there is a great hole for the water to fall into - the Niagara hole.
- Toronto Tartu College, symposium "Small Cultures in a Big World", 11 am - 1 pm, with a lecture by Kristiina entitled “How to Explain My Language to You – My Poetry in the Wider World” . - Toronto Tartu College, reading-concert "Every Moment Is a Well", 20 September, 7 pm. - Toronto Tartu College, workshop performance "Eesti regilaul ja rahvatants minevikust tänapäeva" (Estonian Runo Song and Folk Dance Down Through the Ages) at the opening of the photo exhibition "Pooltund kirjanikuga", 21 September, 3pm (in Estonian). - Ehatare Estonian Retirement Home, Toronto, 23 September, 3 pm(in Estonian). - Toronto Eesti Seltsi Täienduskool (Toronto Estonian Society School), 24 September, 8.15 pm (in Estonian). - Grolier Poetry Bookshop, Cambridge, Mass., Friday, 27 September, 7 pm. - Congregation Darech Amuno, NY, Sunday, 29 September, 12 midday. - Long Island University Poetry Center, Tuesday, 1 October, 12.20 pm.
- New York Estonian House, Friday, 4 October, 7 pm.
- William Paterson University, Wayne, NJ, Tuesday, 8 October, 12.30 pm. - Estonian Embassy in Washington, Eesti Selts (Estonian Society), Sunday, 13 October, 6 pm (in Estonian).
- Delegation of the European Union to the United States, "Conversations in Culture" series, Washington DC, Tuesday 15 October, 6 pm.
- New York Public Library, Berger Forum, Wednesday, 16 October, 6 pm.
(An article about Silver Sepp written by David MacFadyen of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at UCLA can be read here.)