Priidu Beier

Priidu Beier is one of the first poets of a new paradigm of Estonian poetry which appeared in the middle of the 1980s. He has brought some stylistic and thematic freedom into a stylized canon of poetry. Beier received the Juhan Liiv Poetry Prize in 2002 and Gustav Suits Poetry Prize in 2008.

Beier graduated from Tartu University in 1983 as an art historian, then worked at Tartu Art Museum from 1984 to 1991, and since 1991 has been a teacher of art, aesthetics, philosophy and history in several schools in and around Tartu. From 1991 to 1994 he was also the editor for the daily newspaper Postimees.

Priidu Beier started to publish in the second half of the 1970s and became a very popular performer of his poetry, but his first collections were withdrawn by his publishing house because of the focus in his work on the grotesque and vernacular, which seemed ideologically suspicious. In the 1980s he used the pseudonym Matti Moguči; poems written under this name were performed by the legendary art collector Matti Milius.  

Priidu Beier´s poetry was especially significant in the 1980s and at the beginning of the 1990s as a powerful indicator of the liberation of Estonian poetic language and style. His texts are mostly parodies of odes and contain simple metric strophes, with common rhymes and metrics, which are often loose and imprecise. His poetry was perceived as a sort of anti-poetry in the 1980s. The authorial attitude of Beier´s texts is a mixture of the lower strata of everyday language, child-like simplicity, the stance of the romantic lover and ironic play with political catchwords; these have much in common with Russian ʻsots-artʼ of the 1980s and Beier transformed them into social criticism of early capitalism in his later texts. Beier was one of the main figures of the last stage of the Estonian literary underground, and was sharply antagonistic towards the basic nationalist-symbolist canon, which dominated until the ʻSinging Revolutionʼ. His poetics is a link between traditional ʻvillage songsʼ (the ʻtrademarkʼ of which is the highly canonised Hando Runnel) and the urban poetry of youth culture at the end of the century (his texts were sung by several punk bands). The bravura and playful irony of earlier Beier has been transformed into melancholic and bitter reflections on social life and lost youth in his most recent collections, but his texts have still maintained a slightly simplistic mode of utterance and the image of a sad, but permanently hopeful, troubadour.

First published in 300 Baltic Writers. A reference guide to authors and their works.


Text by Aare Pilv

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