In Praise of the Loser

I guess all roads lead to the Losers’ Table.


Which, once in a while, likes to lose its persitent pursuers, as it did at the recent Literature Across Frontiers translation workshop I was part of in Santiniketan, site of much familial joy and Bill’s fabulous poem, where I was delighted to discover that Doris Kareva, the wonderful Estonian poet among us, had written this poem, in praise of losers, which she has given me permission to share, here, in the hallowed halls of dubious saints. Halleluiah.


Kaotaja kiituseks

Doris Kareva


Kaotaja kiituseks laulan,

sest võitjale lauldakse niigi;

kurva ees kummardan,

löödu ees langetan pea.

Maailmast loobuja loob,

leiab unedes eneseriigi;

tõeluse taluja salajõudu

ja –suurust keegi ei tea.


Kaotaja kiituseks laulan

ja ilmaolija iluks;

põlatu pärgan, ta kõrgele

laubale vajutan suu –

sellele, kes suudab selgust

puuduvast kogu eluks

kerge ja sirgena kanda,

olen ma tuumani truu.



In praise of the loser


I sing in praise of the loser

for the winner is well lauded,

I kneel before the forlorn

I bow before the beaten.

The world-quitter creates,

discovers self-state in dreams;

the reality-bearer holds

strength and stature untold.


I sing in praise of the loser

and for the have-not’s joy;

I crown the outcast, pressing

my lips to that high brow –

to those who carry clarity

of absence all their days,

both lightly and upright,

I am true to the core.


Translated from the original Estonian by Miriam McIlfatrick

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