Ott Arder (26. II 1950 – 26. VI 2004) was a poet, children’s writer, and translator, who is mostly known for his children’s poetry and for being the author of many popular lyrics used by bands and solo artists, but also in TV and theater productions.
Arder was born in Tallinn, after which the family moved to Rakvere. He went to Rakvere 1st Secondary School and attended secondary schools through distance learning in Tallinn. From 1970-1971 he studied librarianship at the Tallinn Pedagogical Institute. After this, he tried several menial jobs such as line worker and boilerman but settled on being a freelance writer and translator in 1974. Sine 1990, he was a member of the Estonian Writers’ Union. Arder passed away in Kassari, Hiiumaa and is buried at Tallinn Siselinna cemetery.
Arder debuted with the short story Kodanik Arved Asi juhtum ('The Case of Citizen Arved Asi') in the magazine Noorus in 1973. He published humorous stories in the satire magazine Pikker and poems in various newspapers and children’s publications. With an outstandingly bohemian perspective on life, most of his writings consist of poetry written for both children and adults. The distinction between those two types is largely blurred, as is the line between his poetry and lyrics. Arder’s lyrics have secured a place among Estonian pop and choir classics, similarly to his many TV and theater production lyrics, for example from Lumekuninganna ('The Snow Queen', 1985) and Saabastega kass ('Puss in Boots', 1999).
In the 1980s, he published five children’s poetry collections. His debut collection Bumerang ('Boomerang', 1980) brought fresh wit and thematic diversity to children’s poetry. As a whole, his children’s poetry is humorous, full of clever paradoxes, absurd punchlines, boyish tricks and childish plays on words and sounds for readers of all ages. In multi-layered verses, he combines real life and fantasy images into unique nonsense poetry, which highlights the contradictions in everyday phenomena and makes the reader question known truths and prejudices. Clever yet smooth connections between ordinary and sacred categories are sometimes expressed in elegantly careless verses, which do not feel externally forced in form nor artificially trying. Arder uses fun activities and playful situations to relay simple and straightforward messages, which displays both his gentle and kind attitude, but also his skill of combining sub-texts and allegorical layers in his verses.
His poetry collection Valge raamat ('White Book', 1989) was awarded the K. E. Sööt Prize for children’s poetry. During the socially turbulent 1990s, he published the children’s poetry collections Potsatus ('Plop', 1993) and Igavene eesel ('You Donkey', 1996); in the 2000s, the collections Metsapoolne ('From the Forest', 2002) and Puupeatus ('Wooden Stop', 2003). Arder published three adult poetry collections: Üks kõiksus ('What Ever', 1982), Tasakaalukeeled ('Balance Scales Pointers', 1988) and Tähetolgus. Tähe(d) tolmus ('Star Fool. Star(s) in Dust', 2001). In these collections, he addresses man’s relationship with the everyday environment and the macrocosm, reaching increasingly multi-dimensional, often existential fields of meaning. Arder often discusses serious topics through playful humor, mixing it with the grotesque and melancholy.
Arder was also a renowned translator, translating into Estonian from Russian (e.g. the prose works of Venedikt Yerofeyev, Sergei Dovlatov and Arkady Gaidar, the poetry of Viktor Krivulin), Finnish (the children’s novels by Kari Hotakainen and Timo Parvela), English (the children’s stories of Roald Dahl, poems of Robert Burns) and Swedish (the poetry of C. M. Bellman). Arder also assisted other translators by translating the verses in prose novels.
A. O. (Translated by A. S.)
Books in Estonian
Bumerang. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1980, 54 lk.
Koer poiss sõitis jänest. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1982, 44 lk.
Mine metsa. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1986, 29 lk.
Valge raamat. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1989, 46 lk.
Potsatus. Tallinn: Vagabund, 1993, 50 lk. [2. trükk: Tallinn: Proovitrükk, 1993, 38 lk.]
Igavene eesel. Tallinn: Uus Meedia, 1996, 31 lk.
Pisike ruut ja sihvakas sirge. Tallinn: Vagabund, 1996, 37 lk.
Metsapoolne. Tallinn: Tänapäev, 2002, 45 lk.
Puupeatus. Tallinn: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2003, 57 lk.
Luule sünnib kus sünnib kui sünnib (valikkogu). Tallinn: Tänapäev, 2006, 301 lk. [2. trükk: Tallinn: Tänapäev, 2019, 319 lk.]
Koer poiss. Tallinn: Vagabund, 2006, 175 lk. [Valikkogu.]
Millimallikas. Tallinn: TEA Kirjastus, 2008, 38 lk. [Valikkogu.]
Ott otsib karuoblikat. Tallinn: TEA Kirjastus, 2010, 42 lk. [Valikkogu.]
Poetry for adults
Üks kõiksus. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1982, 56 lk.
Tasakaalukeeled. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1988, 63 lk.
Tähetolgus. Tähe(d) tolmus. Tallinn: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2001, 32 lk.