Kaur Riismaa



Kaur Riismaa (born 24 March 1986) is a poet, prose writer and playwright.

Riismaa was born in Tartu. He studied semiotics, theology and classical languages at the University of Tartu, dramaturgy at the Theatre Department of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre and history at Tallinn University. He is a member of the Estonian Writers’ Union from 2013.

He first began to publish literary texts in the portals Kloaak and Poogen. In print, his first poem was published in the newspaper Eesti Kirik in 2006. His first collection Me hommikud, me päevad, õhtud, ööd (‘Our Mornings, Our Days, Evenings, Nights’, 2011) attracted attention with its characteristic maturity and was voted the best debut collection of the year by the critics of the literary journal Vikerkaar. He stood out as a lively narrator of stories and creator of characters who draws his subject matter from Estonian history. Critics have drawn parallels with the creation of the poet and prose writer Mats Traat. The narrative origin is also distinctive of his other poetry collections, for example, Teekond päeva lõppu  (‘Journey to the End of the Day’, 2014), which received the Literature Endowment Annual Award, and Merimetsa (2014). A characteristic feature of his verses is playing with roles and viewpoints, lively creation of characters, e.g., in the collection Metamorfoosid (‘Metamorphoses’, 2013). An essential place in his poetry belongs to temporal journeys on the landscapes of human life, entwinement of memory, topical and everyday themes with the eternal.

The empathy and sensitivity characteristic of his poetry are also recognisable in his prose, for example, in the debut novel Pühamägi (‘Sacred Mountain’, 2015), which has been described as a long poem in prose. Riismaa blurs the border between poetry and prose; here, too, he tells stories about different characters in time. Pimeda mehe aiad (‘The Blind Man’s Gardens’), which appeared in the same year and won the novel competition of Tänapäev publishers, moves in time and space, depicting the protagonist at different stages of his life. Time- and storylines are also entwined in the novels which belong notionally together – Väike Ferdinand (‘Little Ferdinand’, 2019, nominee for the European Union Prize for Literature) and Jaanalind, kägu, kajakas (‘Ostrich, Cuckoo, Seagull’, 2021) move through centuries on the trails of history and philosophy, dealing with several core issues of European culture and science. Richly multi-layered and multilingual is also the novel Lumi Liivimaal (‘Snow in Livonia’, 2022), which, like the previous ones, entwines fictional and real persons, presenting a whole constellation of celebrities of science and culture. The novel, inspired by the theory of relativity, provides enjoyable blendings of time, space and texts, stating, inter alia, that as time and space depend on the viewer, there cannot be any objective history or truth. Despite rich layers of history and culture and allusions, Riismaa’s texts are reader-friendly, providing different approaches and offering different models for reading.

An essential place in Riismaa’s creation belongs to theatre in which he has been engaged since his school years. He has been active at Tartu Student Theatre and Drakadeemia, which concentrates on theatrical creative writing. His play Tulvavesi vaatama (‘Looking at Flood Waters’) won a special mention at the playwriting competition of the Estonian Theatre Agency in 2009. Riismaa has compiled and staged several poetry programmes and other productions and been a dramaturge.

In 2015, he received the Estonian Cultural Endowment Scholarship Ela ja sära (‘Live and Shine’) and the writer’s salary in 2021–2023.

A. K. (Translated by I. A.)

Books in Estonian

Pimeda mehe aiad. Tallinn: Tänapäev, 2015, 222 lk
Pühamägi. Luige: Verb, 2015, 109 lk
Väike Ferdinand. Tallinn: Vihmakass ja Kakerdaja, 2019, 318 lk
Jaanalind, kägu, kajakas. Tallinn: Vihmakass ja Kakerdaja, 2020, 508 lk
Lumi Liivimaal. Tallinn: Vihmakass ja Kakerdaja, 2022, 300 lk

Poetry collections
Me hommikud, me päevad, õhtud, ööd. Saarde, Pärnu: Jumalikud Ilmutused, 2011, 196 lk
Rebase matmine. Tallinn: Näo Kirik, 2012, 111 lk
Majus ja majutult: naeru ja yksilduse raamat. Luige: Verb, 2013, 111 lk
Metamorfoosid. Saarde, Pärnu: Jumalikud Ilmutused, 2013, 110 lk
Merimetsa. Saarde, Pärnu: Jumalikud Ilmutused, 2014, 80 lk
Teekond päeva lõppu. Tallinn: Näo Kirik, 2014, 63 lk
Soekülm. Luige: Verb, 2016, 85 lk
Kogemata. Tallinn: Vihmakass ja Kakerdaja, 2018, 51 lk
Aknad avanevad taevasse. Tallinn: Vihmakass ja Kakerdaja, 2022, 64 lk