Ivar Ivask Alexander Aspel - Essay

Alexander Aspel

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Dr. Ivar Ivask], whose scholarly and incisive criticism has won him unanimous recognition also as the best literary critic of the younger generation in free Estonian literature, reveals himself in [Tähtede tähendus], which is his first [volume of verse], as a poet of remarkable talent and unusual depth. The title "Meaning of the Stars" … refers to a sentence written long ago by the grandmother of the poet, but it refers through the poems of the collection also to the Milky Way, to companionship and, last but not least, to the correspondence between macrocosm and microcosm in a unified world.

Pointing to the poet's origins, the title summarizes aptly the poetic substance of the volume which lies in the discovery of the poet's inner identity and of his relation to the world through the experience of an immediate contact with fundamental realities. This contact occurs in situations of everyday life, which release suddenly the sensation of a break-through and of participation with the fullness of life. (pp. 373-74)

Condensed to few striking images and elliptic statements, the pattern of reduction and rebirth runs through most of Ivask's dramatic poems. It runs also through the whole cycle of travel poems, where Vienna, Paris, and the Mediterranean world are met as revelations of their particular essences.

The dramatic poems of rebirth are balanced in this collection by a series of simple, often epigrammatic yet singularly transparent poems, in free verse, where the poet senses the faint echoes of his ancestral past….

Ivask's poetry meets the age-long current of elemental and animistic realism in Estonian poetry, yet it shows close affinities also with the new poetry of Being apparent in many countries of Europe and Latin America. (p. 374)

Alexander Aspel, "Books in Various Languages: 'Tähtede tähendus'," in Books Abroad (copyright 1965 by the University of Oklahoma Press), Vol. 39, No. 3, Summer, 1965, pp. 373-74.