His first collection of love poetry


Suur sume, suur tume

Great Dusk, Great Dark (Poetry, Estonian)
Published by Verb, 2014, pp. 80

Jürgen Rooste’s collection of poetry earned a great deal of notice and renown last year, as it differs strongly from the earlier work of the author, who has so far been known as an urban poet and blues man. Rooste (born 1979) is currently one of the most prolific Estonian poets: during his 15-year-long career in poetry, he has published more than a dozen collections (considering his creative potential and stylish eagerness, among younger Estonian poets only Kaur Riismaa might be able to surpass him soon). Being his first collection of love poetry, it comes as a surprise. Rooste’s poetic self has always roamed city streets and partied as a flaneur, sketching pictures of different moods at different back corners and situations in Tallinn, finding ways to express irony and intuition, as well as conveying wider ideas with a social-critical sub-tone. Above all, he has mastered expressive free verse that often contains intertextual and playful intertwinings with works of Estonian literary classics or with works of contemporary poets from his own circle.

 Entirely new keywords stand out in this new collection. The author moves from the urban rumpus to the landscapes of a small fishing village. Together with his children, his poetic self explores the summer outdoors, playful rains and insects: “The monotone humming of insects, the faraway sound of a motorboat,/ even a sawmill: in this summer everything reminds me of/ a prayer, I am in a continuous dusky meditation.” In such an environment and with descriptions of prayer and meditation, the poetic self starts to perceive his existence as a “Buddhist asceticism”, which means coping with everyday life, being together with his children, being away from the busy city life and discovering the self in all this (“will I ever get out of this thicket/ will I come to life again and return home/ could this journey cleanse my heart that is dark?”). One thing is clear from the beginning: it is love that is important, whether already in full force or only gathering strength; at one moment it becomes the core of the book and gives the poetic self a new reason for breathing and brings passionate changes to his life. “… but how can you write poems/ if you are not in love/ or, rather, you are in love with all this/ the green of the foliage is infectious/ you are green in your soul/ a new freshly crawled-out small worm.”

 At first, Rooste seems “like he has lost his way in space and time”; through small beings and everyday things he examines and learns about the environment (and writes haikus about it!). This is the starting point of the “echo and sound of the story of life”, until his everyday existence in a fishing village called Käsmu collides with a clear passionate love directed towards the one and only, first a vaguely abstract ideal woman, then the clearly defined young woman Sveta. From this moment on, Rooste strives for the depths of love, he wants to live in a way that he can give to his lover something more than “only the stifling sweetness of hung-over mornings”; he “would like to believe in endless love”. At the end of the book, the poetic self returns to the already familiar city milieu, starts to cruise bars and his poems depart from the form of haiku that was often used in the beginning of the book and channel into his familiar, intense and private city blues. He has to come to terms with his inner sense of morals and make decisive choices (“I evoke the picture of my home/ I feel as if my heart is racing// I need to exist somewhere else/ for my children as well”). However, in all this the special mood of summer vacation remains, some freshness and unexpectedness, the beauty of the world in the form of a new love: “I did not write a poem about/ how I almost believe after a long time/ that this kind of love is possible/ that you think about a person and hold her/ in your thoughts and roll her like a snowball/ of the first snow that does not melt/ that you cannot bear to throw away/ because there is the beauty of the beginning and the world in it/ the real feeling/ that you still remember having seen/ in life and in things.” 

Text by Brita Melts

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