Poems about things left unsaid and roads not travelled, or celebrating the existence of poets


Kersti Merilaas (1913–1986) and August Sang (1914–1969) have, both in their early poems and later years, written poignantly about loss in the broadest sense of the word: losing loved ones to death, dreams to reality, freedom to totalitarianism. Yet their poetry remains, if not entirely optimistic, always attentive to ways in which life, love and creative work inevitably continue in a world where the experience of loss is also inevitable. On the one hand, their poetry shows clear understanding of the limits of human reality. On the other hand, while they realize that certain lines cannot be crossed, neither in life nor art, they refuse to accept ready-made concepts of how these lines – impossibilities, disappointments, failures, personal and collective traumas – define and articulate the reality and our understanding thereof. Scepticism towards simple, black and white oppositions and evaluations is thus an important theme in their poetry, but it is also a basis for a more general reflection inspired by their life and work. With Sang and Merilaas, it is quite impossible to separate personal relations and family life from partnership in creative endeavours, personal history from that of the entire Estonian literature, original writing from translating, individual thought from a constant dialogue with other people brought close by life and/or literature. The discussion of these issues in this article is based on some of their poems (most of them from Kersti Merilaas’ last collection Antud ja võetud („Given and taken”), 1981) and critical texts about their work.



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Becher, Johannes 1962. Unistades täiusest. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus.

Ivask, Ivar 1982. Kersti Merilaas „Antud ja võetud: luuletusi 1977–1979”. – World Literature Today, nr 2, lk 374.

Kiin, Sirje 1981. Mullast oled sa võetud… – Looming, nr 5, lk 740–742.

Kiin, Sirje 1989. Kersti Merilaas. Luuletaja elu. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat.

Kross, Jaan 1982. Kersti Merilaas ja eesti lugeja… – Jaan Kross. Vahelugemised III. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, lk 9–15.

Maulpoix, Jean-Michel 2004. La poésie, autobiographie d’une soif. – Poésie & Autobiographie. Rencontres de Marseille, 17, 18 novembre 2000. Marseille: cipM, lk 24–30.

Merilaas, Kersti 1974. „Keele ja Kirjanduse” ringküsitlus kirjanikele: Kuidas ja mille mõjul tekkis Teil huvi kirjanduse vastu? Kuidas valmisid Teie esimesed teosed? [Vastused toimetuse küsimustele.] – Keel ja Kirjandus, nr 3, lk 162–163.

Merilaas, Kersti 1981. Antud ja võetud. Luuletusi 1977–1979. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat.

Muru, Karl 2001a. Noor August Sang. – Karl Muru, Luuleseletamine. Tartu: Ilmamaa, lk 136–147.

Muru, Karl 2001b. Lõplikkus ja lõpmatus Kersti Merilaasi luules. – Karl Muru, Luuleseletamine. Tartu: Ilmamaa, lk 222–227.

Olesk, Sirje 1993. Luuletaja räägib lihtsatest tõdedest. – Hommikuleht, 3. V, lk 19.

Oras, Ants 2004. In memoriam August Sang. – Ants Oras, Luulekool II. Meistriklass. Koost Hando Runnel, Jaak Rähesoo. (Eesti mõttelugu 58.) Tartu: Ilmamaa, lk 411–415.

Sang, August 1939. Müürid. Luuletusi. Tartu: Eesti Kirjanikkude Liidu Kirjastus.

Sang-Merilaas, Kersti 1973. Saateks. – August Sang, Laenatud laulud I. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, lk 5–6.

Talviste, Katre 2013. Where do dead books go? The problem of the Soviet canon today, on the example of Johannes Becher’s work in Estonian. – Interlitteraria, nr 18/2, lk 184–195.