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Kaplinski’s far-away spaces

Triggered by the image suggested in Hamlet that even while bounded in a nutshell it is still possible to consider oneself the king of infinite space, the article attempts to chart the reach of the dimension of the far-away space in Jaan Kaplinski’s poetry. The point of departure is found in the chrestomatic works on space and place in humanistic geography that underscore the nature of space as „amorphous and intangible and not an entity that can be directly described and analysed” (Relph 1976: 8). Thus, while lacking stability and connoting with openness, freedom and mobility, space is made meaningful by places for which it creates a context. 

In Kaplinski’s poems four major kinds of far-away spaces can be detected, each signalled by the type of places embedded in them. Firstly, there is the cosmic space that can be described by evoking the names of celestial bodies and constellations; there is an awareness that distances in this type of space are measured in light years. Secondly, a type of space appears that bears features of the Fairy land described by folklorists, such as being vaguely located somewhere unmeasureably far away with scarce toponymic reference mostly used just to signal distance, and being possibly surrounded by a boundary that cuts it off from the everyday world. Tropes emerging in connection with this space are mountains, the desert and the sea. 

Thirdly, there is a kind of space constructed by places and regions on the actual political world map, usually sites of tension and conflict an awareness of which may explictly come from the media. A prominent subcategory, directly connected with map-making and the related naming of foreign places, is (post)colonial space. Also other culturally or politically mediated spaces are gathered under this umbrella. And finally, there is the far-off dimension of the world that the persona can relate to as a traveller, either by having visited certain places or dreaming of the possibility.

What also emerges in the course of the discussion is that the spatial types appear already in Kaplinski’s slim first collection and are elaborated in a more individual manner throughout the poet’s later oevre.