Soil and garden in the poetry of Debora Vaarandi

Soil constitutes the living ground from which cultures stem, alongside with all other manifestations of life. Soil has been an important trope in the poetry of Debora Vaarandi (1916–2007), one of the leading poets of mid-20th century Estonia. She grew up in the countryside and agricultural work was an essential part of her life experience. Political conditions left their mark on Vaarandi’s poems: in her propagandistic poetry of the 1950s soil appears only as an emblem of socialist agriculture. The poem „Dear soil…” (1954) marks a turning point; from there on, an intimate and emotionally enriching bond with soil appears in Vaarandi’s poetry. Its apotheosis is reached in the poem „Estonian soils” (1964), where soils are likened to human tissues. Through fertility and exhaustion, soils are metaphorically associated with the situation of women. Gardens appear in Vaarandi’s poetry only toward the end of her literary career. Through the lyrical depictions of gardening, a „turn of faith” and resignation are expressed that eventually lead to creating via gardening instead of creating via literature.