One keyword by which Jürgen Rooste is well known is 'Taanilinn' (Danishtown), or Tallinn, a town/living organism which he addresses in his poems with equal parts of love and hatred. His own life, too, is totally Tallinn-focused: he was born here in 1979, went to school and studied the Estonian language at the Tallinn Pedagogical University (now Tallinn University), and taught literature in a school; for the last years Rooste has worked as a literary editor, and for the Estonian Writers´ Union. 

In spring 1998 a bunch of Tallinn Pedagogical University language students gathered into a creative group, Tallinn Young Creators. Rooste could be considered the most outstanding author emerging from this particular group.

In late 1999 Rooste published his first collection, Sonnets, which received the Betti Alver award for the best debut. The collection does not contain a single sonnet, and the title was arrogantly borrowed from one of the most remarkable debut works in Estonian literature, Marie Under’s Sonnets in 1917. The gesture in itself is interesting, as it indicates a relationship with tradition several times over – Rooste was referring to the carnivalesque and exuberant arrival of the Siuru literary group, established in 1917, which was one of the most sparkling self-manifestations of a new generation in Estonian literature. This can therefore be interpreted as a declaration of ‘permanent revolution’, taking the baton from the earlier rebels. Echoes of Under continued for some time in Rooste’s subsequent titles. In 2005 his collection, Ilusaks inimeseks (To Be a Beautiful Person), abandoned this pattern.

Rooste has  also written for children, and is an author of a few short stories. The language and style of Jürgen Rooste’s poems are characterised by freely and forcefully flowing colloquial free verse; the tone is declarative and ecstatic rather than ‘poetically’ lyrical and reflective. Rooste’s poems leave the impression of a spontaneous river of associations, contained by a fixed self-image and a steady emotional tone that intensely oscillates between anxiety and intoxication, also containing ‘simpler’ sadness and joy. Rooste is certainly unique in Estonian poetry, although this cannot really be called a ‘unique poetic idiom’, as it is quite a synthetic type of poetic language that is always eager to borrow motifs, keywords and intonations, and blend them all into a dense, smoothly flowing alloy.

Urban topics, in turn, are associated with an area known in Estonian literary space as ‘sociality’ – touching upon political and socially sensitive issues in poetry. Mocking with its title, Rooste´s collection Kuidas tappa laulurästikut (To Kill A Mocking Viper, 2011) turns from severe social criticism into Man himself.

Rooste himself has been ‘rocking’ in the direct sense of the word: his poetry readings mostly take place with musical accompaniment. Rooste presents his poems accompanied by punk-rock music, either reciting or singing, 'humming, growling, wheezing, shouting, blabbering and other attempts at articulation'.


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