Kalju Lepik

Poems Kalju Lepik

About Kalju Lepik

Kalju Lepik (7. X 1920 – 30.V 1999) is one of the best-known Estonian poets of the second half of the 20th century, one whose creativity reached maturity in exile.

He was born at Koeru, from 1928 to 1934 attended Koeru primary school, from 1935 to 1939 Tartu School of Business, from 1939 to 1941 Tartu Secondary School of Business and from 1942 to 1943 the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Tartu, specializing in Nordic history and archaeology. In exile for a short time he continued his studies in history and ethnography at the University of Stockholm. In 1943 Lepik was mobilized into the German army. A year later he escaped to Sweden, after a short period of activity as a Forest Brother on Hiiumaa. His memories of life among the Forest Brethren are reflected in his later poetry.

Most of his adult life Kalju Lepik spent in exile in Stockholm, one of the most important keepers of Estonian identity there. Although at first he had to work in a hospital kitchen, a radio factory and a printing-house, by the time he reached Sweden at the age of 26 he was already a well-developed literary figure and co-founder of several exile organizations: he belonged to the Estonian Cultural Society of Sweden and the Estonian National Council; from 1966 to 1985 he was the director of the Baltic Archive, in 1970 he was elected to the Deputies’ Assembly of the Estonian Committee, and in 1982 to the chairmanship of the Estonian Writers’ Union Abroad, holding that post until his death. He also belonged to the Põhjala student society, the Swedish Writers’ Union and the PEN Club, among others.

At the same time he continued leading the Tuulisui art and literature group in Sweden, having established it in Tartu in 1940. Among other things he edited the journal Sõna (‘The Word’) under the auspices of Tuulisui (1948-1950) and contributed his own works to anthologies, such as Homse nimel (‘In the Name of Tomorrow’), 1945) and Kirjanikult lugejale (‘From Author to Reader’, 1952). Under the pseudonym Rein Kaljumägi he published a novel written with Arvo Mägi, Tuuleveski (‘The Windmill’, Lund 1967).

Lepik was active on the journals Kodutee and Kodukolle and in establishing the Estonian publishing house Eesti Raamat in Stockholm. He also edited Gustav Suits’ collected poems (1963). Kalju Lepik died in Tallinn.

Kalju Lepik published his first poems in 1939 in the student journals Iloli and Tuleviku Rajad. During his life he published up to twenty collections. Among Lepik’s verse can be found both patriotic lyrics and satire, both romance and pessimism. The range of his subject-matter is broad and the scale of his expression is generous. His hallmark is seen as a peculiar black humour, which is taken to be a way of scaring away the author’s inner anxieties. There are elements from folk poetry, but also free verse and Christian imagery. He was especially sceptical – for the time and his own lifetime – of political power. His models were Juhan Liiv, Gustav Suits, Henrik Visnapuu, Juhan Sütiste and Heiti Talvik.

His poetry has appeared in most of the bigger poetry anthologies and been translated into at least a dozen foreign languages. The Maarjamaa publishing house issued a collection in nine languages of Lepik’s poetry, translated by Mare Tiido, Surmal on lapse silmad (‘Death Has a Child’s Eyes’, 1976). Several monographs and bi(bli)ographical works have been written about him.

He was praised even in his period in exile, in terms of awards from the Estonian National Congress in Sweden (1962), the Estonian Cultural Society of Sweden (1976), the Estonian Arts Foundation in Canada (1981), the Estonian Committee in Stockholm (1988); he won a number of recognitions after Estonian regained its independence: the Juhan Liiv Poetry Prize (1990 and 1998), the A. H. Tammsaare Literary Award (1991), the Order of the Great Seal, 1st class (1996), the annual Estonian Literature Prize (1998), and the Järvamaa Coat of Arms Badge (1999). Since 2003, every year on the eve of the poet’s birthday in October, there has been a Kalju Lepik Poetry Competition at Koeru.

M. K. (Translated by C. M.)

Books in Estonian

Nägu koduaknas. Luuletusi 1942-1946. Stockholm: Eesti Raamat, 1946, 71 lk.
Mängumees. Teine kogu luuletusi. Stockholm: Eesti Raamat, 1948, 54 lk.
Kerjused treppidel. Kolmas kogu luuletusi. Vadstena: Orto, 1949, 61 lk.
Merepõhi. Neljas kogu luuletusi. Stockholm: Tuulisui, 1951, 63 lk.
Muinasjutt Tiigrimaast. Viies kogu luuletusi. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1955, 79 lk.
Kivimurd. Kuues kogu luuletusi. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1958, 95 lk.
Ronk on laululind. Valitud luuletused. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1961, 142 lk.
Kollased nõmmed. Seitsmes kogu luuletusi. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1965, 95 lk.
Marmorpagulane. Kaheksas kogu luuletusi. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1968, 80 lk.
Verepõld. Üheksas kogu luuletusi. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1973, 96 lk.
Surmal on lapse silmad = Death has a Child’s Eyes. Tõlkinud Mare Tiido. Rooma: Maarjamaa, 1976, 208 lk. [Eesti, soome, ungari, itaalia, saksa, inglise, rootsi, läti ja prantsuse keeles.]
Klaasist mehed. Kümnes kogu luuletusi. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1978, 95 lk.
Kogutud luuletused (1938–1979). Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1980, 472 lk.
Kadunud külad. Üheteistkümnes kogu luuletusi. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1985, 96 lk.
Rukkilille murdmise laul. Valitud luuletused. Koostanud Paul-Eerik Rummo. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1990, 486 lk.
Öötüdruk. Kaheteistkümnes kogu luuletusi. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1992, 95 lk.
Pihlakamarja rist. Kolmeteistkümnes kogu luuletusi. Tartu: Ilmamaa, 1997, 103 lk; [2. trükk: 2000.]
60 luuletust. Koostanud Otto Paju. Tartu: Ilmamaa, 2000, 160 lk.
Valguse riie ei vanu. Kogutud luuletused 1938-1999. Koostanud Hando Runnel. Tartu: Ilmamaa, 2002, 630 lk.
Paomaal ja maarjamaal. Koostanud ja järelsõna: Karl Muru. Tallinn: Tänapäev, 2009, 109 lk.

Rein Kaljumägi [= Kalju Lepik ja Arvo Mägi], Tuuleveski. Nelikümmend ja üks koltunud kirja lisadega. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1967, 262 lk.

About Kalju Lepik
Endel Sõgel, Sina oled kuusik ja mina lepik. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1965, 32 lk. [Ajalehe Kodumaa lisa.] 
Arvo Mägi, Kalju Lepik. Lühimonograafia. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1970, 77 lk. [2. trükk: 1993.]
Kalju Lepik. Personaalnimestik. Koostanud Anne Valmas. Tallinn: Eesti Rahvusraamatukogu, 1990, 156 lk.
Kalju Lepik. Bibliograafia. Koostanud Anne Valmas ja Anne Klaassen. Tallinn: Teaduste Akadeemia Kirjastus, 2000, 224 lk.
Juta Rundu, Kalju Lepik ja Koeru. Tõravere: Eesti Vabaharidusliit, 2000, 96 lk.