Juhan Viiding

PoemsJuhan Viiding

Short stories


About Juhan Viiding

Juhan Viiding (1. VI 1948 – 21. II 1995) was a poet, actor, and stage director, who, until 1975, published his poetry under the pseudonym Jüri Üdi (‘George Marrow’). Viiding was born in Tallinn and studied theatre and stagecraft in the Drama Department of the Tallinn State Conservatory between 1968 and 1972. After his graduation, Viiding started working as an actor in the Tallinn Academic Drama Theatre, where he performed several important roles (e.g. Hamlet, Peer Gynt). He also directed plays, notably absurd tragedies (e.g. S. Beckett), compiled song and poetry shows of his own work, such as Lavakava I (‘Stage Show’, 1982) and II (1984) and Öötöö (‘Night Work’, 1987)), wrote film scripts, and performed as a singer. In 1995, Juhan Viiding committed suicide.

Viiding made his literary debut in 1968 with a semi-underground book Realistliku ingli laul (‘The Song of a Realistic Angel’) and became more known to the wider public with “Närvitrükk” (‘Nerve Print’), a selection of poems published in a volume with three previously unpublished poets. That same year, under his pseudonym Jüri Üdi, Viiding published his first book of poetry Detsember (‘December’, 1971). As Jüri Üdi he also published Käekäik (‘Well-being’, 1973), Selges eesti keeles (‘In Plain Estonian’, 1974), and Armastuskirjad (‘Love Letters’, 1975). In 1978, he published the comprehensive selection Ma olin Jüri Üdi (‘I Was Jüri Üdi’), which also included a short final sequence called “Poems by Juhan Viiding”, thus ending his creative phase as Jüri Üdi. Under his own name Juhan Viiding published the collections Elulootus (‘Hope for Life’, 1980) and Tänan ja palun (‘Blessing and Pleading’, 1983) and the selection Osa (‘A Part’, 1991). Unlike the major poets of the immediately preceding generation, Viiding never wrote essays or criticism, but his poetry became a universal point of reference for the majority of young poets in the 1970s and 80s. In 1998, Kogutud luuletused (‘Collected poems’), compiled by Hasso Krull, was published posthumously.

Viiding’s style of verse can be characterized by short elliptical sentences, dislocations between the verse and sentence structure, and continual self-negotiation—lines and phrases cancel previous ones, new information is constantly interjected and this in turn creates unexpected pauses, contrasts, and twists. His poetry is playful, linguistically artistic, and allegorical, containing puzzling ambiguities and rapid changes of perspective. Viiding’s earlier poetry combines and sometimes counters different aesthetical categories, such as lyrical, comical, and grotesque styles. He parodies language discourses, plays with the textual “I,” the physical author, and the incessant shifting of masks and roles. After giving up his pseudonym in the second half of the 1970s, Viiding’s style incorporated more free verse with fewer ironic games as well as a more confessional orientation with ethical proclamations and maxims. Following the publication of his final poetry collection in 1983, Juhan Viiding seemed to have written but rarely.

Juhan Viiding was awarded the Ants Lauter Actor Award in 1978, the Juhan Smuul Literary Prize in 1984 for his collection Tänan ja palun, and the Juhan Liiv Poetry Award in 1985 for the poem “Soov” (‘A Wish’). 

A. N.

Books in Estonian

Jüri Üdi, Realistliku ingli laul. Märt Laarmanni linoollõiked. [S.l.: Märt Laarmann, 1968], 26 lk.
Jüri Üdi, Detsember. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1971, 72 lk.
Jüri Üdi, Käekäik. Tallinn: Perioodika (Loomingu Raamatukogu), 1973, 64 lk.
Jüri Üdi, Selges eesti keeles. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1974, 76 lk.
Jüri Üdi, Armastuskirjad. Tallinn: Perioodika (Loomingu Raamatukogu), 1975, 64 lk.
Ma olin Jüri Üdi. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1978, 156 lk.
Elulootus. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1980, 64 lk.
Tänan ja palun. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1983, 64 lk.
Osa. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1991, 223 lk.
Jüri Üdi ja Juhan Viiding, Kogutud luuletused. Koostanud ja järelsõna: Hasso Krull. Tallinn: Tuum, 1998, 646 lk. [4. trükk: Tallinn: Tuum, 2008, 646 lk.]
Jüri Üdi, Tiibadega raamat. Valinud ja koostanud Hasso Krull. Tallinn: Tänapäev, 2007, 153 lk. 2008, 646 lk.]

Olevused: näidend kahes vaatuses. Tallinn: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2014, 84 lk.

Juhan Viiding. Koostanud Riina ja Elo Viiding. Tallinn: Arm Music, 2004, 5 CD-d (8 min, 43 min, 46 min, 31 min, 43 min), 1 raamat (48 lk).