Radical homelessness in Ene Mihkelson’s poetry

Keywords: homelessness, phenomenology, allegory, poetry

The article examines the homeless experience of the lyrical subject in Ene Mihkelson’s poetry. The main argument is that in her phrasing of homelessness Mihkelson goes to extremes as her texts containing the word kodu ‘home’ are almost void of moments of homely coziness. In the article, thematic analysis of homelessness covers the whole poetic oeuvre of Mihkelson. The analysis follows the framework developed by the author’s previous articles defining home as an experience horizon with a spatial and an inter-subjective (sharing) aspect, whereas homelessness means an essential error in the home experience. The conclusion reads that in Mihkelson’s poetry the experience of homelessness is manifested in a sparse number of basic situations, which can be divided into interconnected thematic clusters as follows: 1) the lyrical subject finds themself isolated in a closed and menacing dwelling; 2) the home is under the threat of destruction mostly signaled by various deformations of the surrounding dwelling, sometimes also by an invasion of something strange; 3) contacts with parents and other relatives while the subject cannot leave the closed domestic space; 4) allusions to images of a lost home in previous Estonian poetry; 5) addition of metaphysical categories and other abstractions (incl. linguistic ones).

The analysis is concluded with an attempt at a comprehensive interpretation of Mihkelson’s homelessness poetry, based on the relevant studies by Aare Pilv and Hasso Krull as well as Maurice Blanchot’s stylistic approach. Based on Blanchot’s distinction between the literary expressions of prose and poetry, Mihkelson’s oeuvre is also seen as vacillating between the two, with a preference to poetic expression. Yet in this field of tension, literature tends to lose its poietic self-confidence characteristic of creating anthems and starts asking self-subversive questions, just like in Mihkelson’s poetry. The material analysed in the article enables to state that in her home poetry Mihkelson uses various ways of representation to convey just the atmosphere of missing home, without ever creating a positive image, not even from a distance like of a lost home. And yet this poetry remains sublime, being bound to something inexorably non-representable (in this case, the lost home), which is why Mihkelson’s poetry can be called, in Lyotard’s terms, postmodern.


Leo Luks (b. 1976), PhD, Estonian University of Life Sciences, Assistant Professor of Philos­ophy (Fr. R. Kreutzwaldi 1, 51006 Tartu); Tartu Herbert Masing School, Philosophy Teacher,