Ordinary Estonian Idiot


Tavaline eesti idioot

Ordinary Estonian Idiot (Poetry, Estonian)
Published by Jumalikud Ilmutused, 2008, pp. 127

The latest collection of poetry by Jürgen Rooste, the most recognized poet of Estonia’s younger generation, is an anthology of unpublished longer poetic pieces from 1999-2007.  The span of Rooste’s often wordy free verse is broad, ranging from manifestations of nationalism and local colour to the cosmos, broad enough to include a poetic travelogue about Russia Tallinn-Moscow-Sõktõvkar, modern, dynamic poetry of the city, and existential reflections about being a poet from a small people. There is both beauty and ugliness here, sentiment, aesthetics, and ethics. Rooste has articulated his own original vision of the relationship of these latter two terms, and this becomes his point of departure for the collection: metrics and ethics should add up to/ethrics/something spanning the whole land something which/deals with the boil on the skin of society and a man and/his rejected wife and with their love/which was young like a freshly cut willow stick/still oozing its bitter juice. The poet’s credo calls out forcefully in these verses; without shutting out social problems, he can find hopeful and sublime moments even in depression. The outcome is sometimes grotesque and ironically cutting, but at the same time humane and understandable, expressed as it is through a sequence of images combining contradictory feelings and positions. The poet, who is more of a spontaneous medium than a conscious composer of words is not afraid of these contradictions and paradoxes that appear in the stream of consciousness of these poems; rather, he encourages and intensifies them. He does not have to invent the surreal and the strange, but sees it in around him in everyday life; in this respect Rooste’s verse might even be considered realistic, taking recognizable root in those places where the poet himself has strolled around. He has more than generous helpings of spirit and dynamism to express this experience, as well as a rich capacity to generate images.

Rooste, who is living in Helsinki at the moment, promoting Estonian culture, is a poet who fits with the present day; he is vivid, direct, and fearless, dealing it out to everyone equally, yet not afraid of being naive and idealistic. He does not hide the fact that he himself can be deemed that ‘ordinary Estonian idiot’, a free and happy animal, who lives according to his own druthers without wishing anyone any harm, yet who behaves contradictorily and strangely just like most of the world around him. Thus, with acute self-irony, the poet is not afraid of exposing himself, while at the same time admonishing himself to listen to the voice of reason. As a popular media figure, a productive poet, who does not restrain himself even in the most angry newspaper columns, and who has belted out his own verse to music, Jürgen Rooste knows how to make himself heard. He is an institution in himself, expanding over the edges of poetry, a phenomenon unto himself in contemporary Estonian literature.

The collection is accompanied by a brief afterword from the scandalous poet Kivisildnik, who published the book, and who in his inappropriate comments always positions himself on the side of the oppressed, never tiring of defamiliarizing the deep stupidity that is taking over the world. Among other things, we find out in the afterword that Rooste`s poetry collection is the first part of the Soft Landing Trilogy planned by the publisher. It goes without saying that in keeping with Kivisildnik’s other performances, this afterword is boundlessly yet justifiably full of praise, carrying with it the irrepressible power of the rhetoric of rock stars.

Text by Janika Kronberg

First published in Estonian Literary Magazine

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