Paul-Eerik Rummo might be called the most paradoxical “living legend” of the nineteen-sixties, and he is one of the most important persons bound up with Estonian poetic innovation at that time.
His early debut in 1962 was quickly followed by two very powerful books; Tule ikka mu rõõmude juurde (Always come to my joys, 1964) and Lumevalgus... lumepimedus (The Blinding Light of Snow, 1966), making him one of the prominent figures of his innovative generation. In 1968 Rummo published a book that is nothing less than the culmination of the symbolist trend in post-war Estonian literature: Luulet 1960–1967 (Poetry 1960–1967), bringing together some 90 poems of remarkable vigour and brilliance.
Paul-Eerik Rummo was born in 1942 in Tallinn as a son of the writer Paul Rummo, and by education is an Estonian philologist from Tartu University. He has worked as a literary editor in the theatre, culture consultant at the State Chancellery, and since the fall of the Soviet regime Rummo has been engaged in politics. He has been the Minister of Culture and Education and the Minister for Population Affairs, and a member of Parliament. He is married to the poetess Viiu Härm and a father of four daughters.
Paul-Eerik Rummo has also written dramatic texts, radio plays, film scripts, books for children and literary criticism. He has translated the poetry of Dylan Thomas, John Donne, Eugenio Montale, Alexander Pushkin and T. S. Eliot (The Waste Land and Other Poems, 1999).
As might have been expected, this culmination, Poetry 1960–1967, was also a consummation: having completed his youthful work, the poet changed direction. If Rummo’s early work clearly represented the symbolist trend, his later poetry became more experimental. The details are usually realistic, drawn from everyday life and conversations, while the structure of the poem is often based on a single joke, or indeterminate. In 1972 he made an attempt to publish another collection, called Saatja aadress (The Sender’s Address) and bring together the production of the last five years. This attempt was not successful. The officials rejected the idea of publishing an unabridged version; the poet could not insist, and withdrew from the battle. The book spread via samizdat. One might say that this was still a victory, that the officials were in fact defeated. The Sender’s Address appeared at last in 1989. But Rummo almost gave up writing poetry for quite a long time. Still, his poetry lived among the people. Rummo was also the author of the song lyrics of the legendary film Viimne reliikvia (The Last Relic, 1969), considered to be the only Estonian cult movie, the texts almost everyone knows by heart.
Of his plays Tuhkatriinumäng (Cinderella Game, 1969) was an example of new dramaturgy, also staged at La Mama Theatre in New York (1971). In the play the Hamlet-like Prince is after nine years of marriage not sure if his wife is the real Cinderella.
Although recently more a politician than a poet, Rummo published a monumental collection of his poems Kogutud luule (Collected Poetry) in 2005 where his newest poetry also appeared for the first time. That collection was awarded the Estonian Cultural Endowment’s annual poetry award.


Copyright © Estonian Literature Centre. Designed by Asko Künnap. Software by Sepeks