Culture, Travel & Sport

Exploring Estonia, poetically

Finnish visitors to Estonia can now explore the country using a unique Runokartta: a poetry map which features an online collection of poetry. By clicking, for example, on a street corner in Lasnamäe or a village in Võru County, a poem that conveys the spirit of that particular place will open up.

“Publishing is a poor business, especially the publishing of translations, and there is, therefore, a risk that many important and interesting texts will not be published. You have to be inventive and find new ways. The idea of poetry map is wonderful!”, said Sanna Immanen, head of the Estonian Institute in Finland, which has launched the poetry map in partnership with the Finnish Cultural Foundation SKR.

Poems placed in different towns, villages, islands, and in the middle of the forest describe the places in a way that the ordinary guidebook is not capable of. Tourists can find their location and look around through new eyes.

Behind the Estonian poetry map are translators Varja Arola and Anniina Ljokkoi. The map offers a surprising and rich selection of contemporary Estonian poetry (currently only in Finnish: Finns make up the vast majority of visitors to Estonia).

Often, translated poetry finds only a small number of readers and finding a publisher is difficult. This made translators look for alternative ways of publishing. “We want to try if it’s possible to make cruise tourists to read poetry when poems open up easily from a smartphone and say something surprising about the location of a tourist. There are poems even about Tallinn port,” said Ljokkoi, a Finnish translator living in Tallinn.

Arola and Ljokkoi select poems for the map that describe different places, either directly or indirectly. Most of the poems are translated by themselves.

The poetry map will be launched at the beginning of the tourist season, in May, and new poems will gradually appear on the map until the end of 2019.