Anna Haava (born Anna Rosalie Espenstein, surname until 1939 Havakivvi, later Haavakivi; 15./3. X 1864 – 13. III 1957) is one of the most important, and from the end of the 19th century, most widely loved Estonian poets.
She was born into a peasant family at Haavakivi mill-farm in Kodavere parish. In 1873 Anna Haava began her education, attending schools in Pataste and Saare-Vanamõisa and Hoffmann’s German-language private school in Tartu, from 1880 to 1884 the German-language Tartu Higher Girls’ School, from which she matriculated with a tutor’s diploma. She began working as a teacher in a kindergarten in Tartu, and commenced her creative work. When Lydia Koidula died in the summer of 1886, a poem entitled Koidulale ('To Koidula') appeared in the newspaper Postimees under the pen-name Üks Eesti neiu (An Estonian girl) – this was Anna Haava’s first poem in print.
In 1892-1893 she went to Leipzig for her health; later she worked at the Fürstenwald deaconesses’ institution near Berlin. She spent a few months in Estonian with her only sister Liisa, attending on her illness and death, and then moved to Russia. From 1894 to 1899 she worked as a tutor and a nurse in St. Petersburg and elsewhere in Russia. At the turn of the century she returned to Estonia and was the housekeeper at Haavakivi, her brother’s home. After a lengthy illness she settled in Tartu as a freelancer, and for a while before the First World War was on the editorial team of Postimees. Later she worked as a freelance writer and translator. She often suffered material privation, especially in the war years. From 1920 she received a writer’s pension; she was a founder member of the Estonian Writers’ Union in 1922, and in 1945 she was granted a personal pension. In 1954 there were celebrations of the poet’s 90th birthday in the ceremonial hall of the University of Tartu, and since that year a street has been named after her in Tartu. Haava died in Tartu aged 92, and is buried in the Raadi cemetery.
As a poet Anna Haava was active from the age of 22 well into old age – her first poem appeared in 1886; her last ones in a selection in 1954. Her first collections, Luuletused ('Poems') I (1888), II (1890) and III (1897) contain romantic sentimental songs, the main theme of which is love. Haava’s youthful poems got a warm reception on publication, and all the volumes were reprinted several times. In 1906 a collection appeared with a different tone – Lained ('Waves'), which had a markedly socially critical strain. In the texts in the collection Haava condemns discrimination at the ethnic level as well as social injustice and violence. Her social criticism also deepened in the collections Ristlained ('Cross-waves', 1910) and Meie päevist ('Of Our Days', 1920). Haava’s poetry became more personal again in the collections Põhjamaa lapsed ('Children of the Northland', 1913), Siiski on elu ilus ('Life is Beautiful Nevertheless'), and Laulan oma eesti laulu ('I Sing My Estonian Song'), 1935). In 2006 the long-unpublished manuscript Mälestusi Laanekivi Manni lapsepõlvest ('Memories of the Childhood of Mann of Laanekivi') appeared, and in 2008 a book of the collected poetry of Anna Haava, Luule ('Poems'), containing up to 700 poems.
As early as 1887 Miina Härma, a young organist studying in St. Petersburg, set her first songs to Anna Haava’s poems. Over two hundred of Haava’s poems have been set to music by composers (Miina Härma, Mart Saar, K. A. Hermann and others) some of them becoming part of the repertoire of song festivals and turned into folksy songs. Haava published stories in journals, made a collection of aphorisms, Peotäis tõtt ('A Handful of Truth', 1900), and wrote the libretto to Artur Lemba’s opera Lembitu tütar ('Lembitu’s Daughter', 1908). Anna Haava also produced a book in prose describing her childhood home, Väikesed pildid Eestist ('Little Pictures of Estonia', 1911). As a translator she rendered mainly German literature: J.W. Goethe’s Egmont, F. Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell, H. Hofmannstahl’s King Oedipus, but also W. Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, among others. Haava also introduced the mythology of antiquity, translating I. C. Andrä’s and R. Schneider’s Greeka muinaskangelased ('Ancient Greek Heroes') and G. Schalk’s Rooma muinaskangelased ('Ancient Roman Heroes').
A. N. (Translated by C. M.)
Books in Estonian
Luuletused. Tartu: K. A. Hermann, 1888, 77 lk. [2. trükk: 1891, 3. trükk: 1915; 4. trükk: 1920?.]
Luuletused. 2 wihk. Tartu: K. A. Hermann, 1890, 115 lk. [2. trükk: 1913.]
Luuletused. 3 wihk. Tartu: [s.n.], 1897, 128 lk. [2. trükk i.a.]
Lained. Tartu: [s.n.], 1906, 180 lk.
Rist-lained. Tartu: Postimees, 1910, 54 lk.
Põhjamaa lapsed. Tartu: Postimees, 1913, 87 lk.
Meie päevist. Tallinnas: Varrak, 1920, 60 lk.
Anna Haava luuletuskogu. Tartus: Eesti Kirjanduse Seltsi koolikirjanduse toimkond, 1924, 398 lk.
Siiski on elu ilus. Tallinn: R. Kivi, 1930, 94 lk.
Laulan oma eesti laulu. Tartus: Noor-Eesti, 1935, 65 lk.
Luuletused. Koostanud ja eessõna Oskar Kruus. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1954, 416 lk.
Nõmmelill: valimik luuletusi. Koostanud Paul Rummo. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1964, 64 lk.
Anna Haava. Koostanud Debora Vaarandi. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1968, 128 lk. [Sari 'Väike luuleraamat'.]
Luule. Koostanud Sirje Endre ja Linda Olmaru. Eessõna Doris Kareva. Tallinn: SE & JS, 2008, 575, lk.
Peotäis tõtt. Jurjev: Hermann, 1900, 180 lk. [Aforismid.]
Lembitu tütar. Tartu: [s.n.], 1908, 15 lk. [Ooperilibreto.]
Wäiksed pildid Eestist. Tartu: Postimees, 1911, 72 lk. [Jutud. Järgnevad trükid: Tartu: Postimees, 1920, 94 lk; Tallinn: Perioodika (Loomingu Raamatukogu), 1972, 79 lk.]
Mälestusi Laanekivi Manni lapsepõlvest. Tartu: Ilmamaa, 2006, 471 lk. [Autobiograafilised jutustused.]
About Anna Haava
Villem Ridala, Anna Haava 50-aastase sünnipäeva puhul. Tartu: Eesti Kirjandus, 1914, 83 lk.
Ello Säärits, Anna Haava: elu ja loomingu lugu. Tartu: Ilmamaa, 2007, 125 lk.