Maarja Pärtna (b. 2. VII 1986) is an Estonian poet and translator.
Pärtna was born at Lüganuse in Ida-Virumaa county and graduated from Lüganuse secondary school in 2005. From 2005 to 2009 she studied English philology at the University of Tartu and continued with Master’s studies in world literature, graduating in 2014. From 2011 to 2015 she worked in the editorial office of the newspaper Müürileht and from 2014 to 2015 on the journal Värske Rõhk. Since then she has been a freelance writer in Tartu.
Pärtna has written lyrical poetry in free verse, but the narrative element in her poetry has steadily intensified. Her first collection Rohujuurte juures ('At the Grassroots', 2010) is somewhat more heterogeneous and romantic, compared with its successors. From her second collection, Läved ja tüved ('Thresholds and Trunks', 2013) onwards, the objectifying tendency is strengthened. What remains essential is the sensual experience of the lyrical subject, but the subjective element often develops into a generally applicable description or a philosophical generalization. Although Pärtna has also published love poetry as well as texts that deal with the social aspects of human relations (especially in her third collection, Saamises, 'In Becoming', 2015) what is especially characteristic of her work is that the sensual world takes origin in spatial experience, whether the space is houses, a city or, for example, former industrial landscapes and habitations, where humanity has receded and nature has again taken over.
Concern about environmental problems is evident in all of Pärtna’s books, but the theme becomes especially significant in the collection Vivaarium ('Vivarium', 2019) which is her most complete collection compared with the others. One of the basic starting points of Vivaarium is the wish to experience and raise awareness of what it means to live in a time of great environmental change – a time of climate change and ever more evident loss of diversity. The title Vivaarium may be interpreted ironically: in a sense a human being is a guinea-pig who is placed in the sphere of influence of global processes that are unfolding in a particular environment – in such circumstances a sense of alienation is inevitable. An eco-critical approach is manifest in Pärtna’s poetry, but as for her work as a whole one must concede that the great generalizations and conceptions still start from little things, and the abstract progressions of thought arise from subjective experiences.
The tendencies revealed in Pärtna’s poetry are partly due to her literary background. For example, she has translated William Carlos Williams’ poetry into Estonian, and in Vivaarium used verses by Elizabeth Bishop as an introductory motto for the collection. In separate books Pärtna has rendered essays by Margaret Atwood, Kathleen Jamie and Robert Macfarlane into Estonian.
In 2013 Pärtna received the Juhan Liiv poetry award, and in the same year the honorary title of Tartu Young Culture Bearer. In 2020 her collection Vivaarium was awarded the Gustav Suits poetry prize.
M. V. (Translated by C. M.)
Books in Estonian
Rohujuurte juures. Tartu: Värske Rõhk, 2010, 48 lk.
Läved ja tüved. Tallinn: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2013, 84 lk.
Saamises. Luige: Verb, 2015, 56 lk.
Vivaarium. Tartu: Elusamus, 2019, 72 lk.
Elav linn. Tartu: Tedretäht, 2022, 78 lk.