POETRY: Juhan Viiding

Juhan Viiding
Juhan Viiding: photo Kalju Suur

Sometimes the impact of a poet can be so powerful that his influence will dominate the poetic mainstream for more than a decade: so it was with Juhan Viiding (1948–1995), who published his most important works under the pen-name Jüri Üdi (a consciously developed and portrayed alter ego). One might say that Viiding/Üdi was the principal mould for poetic language for a whole generation. His poetry became widely acknowledged with his works Närvitrükk (Nerve Print, 1971), Ma olin Jüri Üdi (I Was Jüri Üdi, 1978) and Tiibadega raamat (A Book With Wings, 2007). Viiding was well-known for various reasons: a professional actor, he also wrote film scripts, staged and acted in films, read poetry expressively – becoming a kind of living legend. In his lines – as well as on the stage – he was light, with lambent wit, radiant, while at the same time painfully serious and tense, fighting for the personal freedom of all. 
A literary perfectionist, Viiding never used a phrase that would reduce the text to commonplaces of style and poetic tradition. He revolutionized the language of Estonian poetry. His work has often been characterized with paradoxical formulations (“anti-poetry”, “sacred irony” etc.), but all critics have agreed that it focuses on the incessant shifting of masks and roles.
For more information about the author, click here.

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