Andra Teede, Pikad mehed, pikad elud (Tall Men, Long Lives)
Jumalikud ilmutused, 2018. 70 pp.
ISBN 9789949519934

Andra Teede is a poet and a playwright whose literary profile has been described as sharp-tongued, humorous, and self-ironic, yet sensitive. Pikad mehed, pikad elud (Tall Men, Long Lives) is her seventh poetry collection. The perceptual majority of Teede’s poetry can be compared to a landing strip. The narrator touches down from a recent ground-shaking life situation or a mundane moment that sticks in the mind; often a long, boozy night spent with someone important. It appears the narrator is seeking her lost center in all those persons and moments. Grounded in the poetry, the author’s tone is frequently laced with sarcasm and a hangover-like fatigue – still, the layer of harshness is gentle and thin, and a fragile, wounded soul pushes out through the cracks.

Teede doesn’t create grand abstractions in her poetry, but rather allows life’s details to acquire symbolic weight on their own – and given the nature of poetry, this process happens independently. Perpetually present in this is the big-picture-seeking writer’s skepticism of simple happiness that can be perceived at any given moment: “I made deli-meat rolls on your dad’s birthday / and was interested in only that / and I didn’t have a single deadline / but only a great and warm sense of belonging / who says how to bear that happiness / of being here with all of you / beneath the same roof / is that enough / twenty years from now will I think / this here is it // or will I never even remember such trivialities / in the framework of my whole life” (p 33).

While the narrator focuses primarily on a loved or hated man (or men?), she bounces back to her ancestors in the quest for that big picture; for guiding wisdom. Women who have lived long lives and lasted long years at their husbands’ sides – can anything be learned from them?

every so often I think about / what my parents knew about love / … / every so often I think / if there’s anything to teach at all / then they could have taught me / how to measure love is that enough” (pp 12–13)

Alas, when you possess only chaotic shards of experience instead of your own wisdom, then your ancestors’ teachings remain distant and out of reach. Tall Men, Long Lives surprises the reader above all with how amiably an attitude and a sincere questioner can exist side by side. If the reader can answer attitude with the same, then the broken soul searching for answers will cast her weapons aside and empathetically burrow into Teede’s poetry.

Maarja Helena Meriste (b. 1992) is a literary critic, editor, and is pursuing a master’s in literature at the University of Tartu. In 2017, Meriste received the youth literary magazine Värske Rõhk’s annual award for literary review.