Heiti Talvik's laconic poetry has been called a "concentrate of eternal sadness". One of his devices is fire: yet, while every fire one day burns down to ash, Talvik's poems seems to be smoldering just as strongly as when they impacted the world, freshly written. His poetry was renowned while banned; it has been put to music, and has a firm place even in today's pop culture.
Talvik was born in Tartu in 1904 to a family of a university student of medicine, a future professor of forensic medicine, and a talented pianist. His godmother was Finnish-Estonian writer Aino Kallas. Talvik's father, who was a literature enthusiast, incited an interest in poetry and philosophy in his children. A student of Estonian language and literature, folk poetry and art history at the University of Tartu, Heiti Talvik did not complete his studies; however, he was an erudite, sensitive critic and publicist alongside his poetry-writing. Desiring conviction in the correctness of his choices, he also worked as an oil-shale miner before going to university.
Talvik's poetry was first published in literary magazines in 1924. His first collection, which appeared ten years later and bore the title Palavik (Fever, 1934), was a highly convincing debut: the young poet was immediately accepted as a member of the Estonian Writers' Union. Talvik belonged to the Arbujad (Soothsayers) poetry group, of which he was one of the sharpest and most epochally exuberant members. Two collections of the poet's works reached the printing presses during his lifetime: the second, Kohtupäev (Judgement Day, 1937), was one of the most outstanding poetry books published that year.
During the 1930s, Heiti Talvik met the young prosaist Betti Alver, who later grew to become one of Estonia's most beloved poetesses. They were married in 1937. The poet was arrested by the NKVD in the spring of 1945, accused of belonging to the university group "Veljesto" together with other Estonian students, and died in a Siberian prison camp in the Tyumen Oblast in 1947. Heiti Talvik's poetry was silenced to nonexistence by Soviet literary policy until the second half of the 1960s, but the poet was never forgotten. A rebirth took place after his rehabilitation in 1966 and the publishing of selected works in 1968: Talvik's influence on Estonian poets that debuted then, as well as those that emerged later, has been remarkably important.
The talented poet first took an example from French poetry: François Villon, more Baudelaire, and was later entranced by Dante and Alexander Pushkin. He did, for example, translate Alexander Blok's works into Estonian. However, these role models have merely complemented his own powerful, laconic, flowingly natural, and at the same time precise and gentle works of poetry. Talvik has often been called prophetic for the topics, about which he wrote during the 1930s; as well as a martyred diviner of the future due to his intellectual, sharp, and logical instinct. Nevertheless, he was also an idealist. Talvik's works, which actually number quite few, have left an immeasurably deep imprint.
The comprehensive collection titled Legendaarne (Legendary, 2007) unites Talvik´s poetry and critiques, as well as texts discussing the poet's works.