Asko Künnap is a poet with many talents, a synthesis of a writer and an artist, and his books of poems all reflect it: for example, Kokkusattumuste kaitseks (In Defence of Coincidences, 2001) is a combination of his third graphic art exhibition catalogue and a poetry book; Ja Sisalikud vastasid (And the Lizards Replied, 2003) is a poetry book in the form of a handbook of typography, and Kõige ilusam sõda (The Most Beautiful War, 2005) is a notebook of a travelling magician illustrated by Künnap's own photography showing the small but important details captured in the cities visited en route, secret maps found from his own palm and models of the universe formed by the bubbles in a glass of cider.
Asko Künnap was born in 1971 in Tartu, Estonia, graduated from the Estonian Academy of Arts as an industrial and graphic designer and subsequently studied interior design at Oslo Art Academy in Norway. The art director of a Tallinn-based creative design studio and ad agency Rakett ('The Rocket'), Künnap is an illustrator, designs books, board games and CD covers and runs a alternative micro publishing house Näo Kirik (The Face Church) as well as writing poetry.
Künnap's world is a modern world, striving for internationality and for the beauty of the game; he self-consciously brings together well-maintained mannerism and well-maintained simplicity - the result offers enjoyable reading, but as a rule, it does not scratch, irritate or jolt, as does the poetry of some outstanding shocker or some hardened world reformer. Although socially critical and sometimes surreally apocalyptic, he retains a kind of positive, genial stance.
And the Lizards Replied is an almost perfect book of pure style, since the content and the design, the text, the script and photographs form a unity and amplify each other's effect. Some of the poems are accompanied by stories that tell about their birth or give some ironic self-referential commentaries. Playfulness and seriousness change places subtly, and the result is stylish, faultless and cultured. Künnap varies his moods, sometimes playfully, sometimes with a nostalgic desire for unpretentious and real existence. The book was given the Estonian Cultural Endowment Poetry Award in 2003.
Probably one of the most beautiful and most enigmatic poetry collections in the last decades in Estonia, Su ööd on loetud (Your Nights Are Numbered) appeared in 2008 and has been described as an attempt to look into the Darkness without fear, characterized as a very dense, nocturnal, even apocalyptic text, illustrated with engravings and collages by the author. It was chosen as one of the most beautiful books having appeared that year.
His poems are included in the Arc anthology, A Fine Line: New Poetry from Eastern & Central Europe (2004) published in the UK, and in the anthology of new European poetry, Tra Ansia e finitudine: La nuova Europa dei poeti (2005) published in Italian and Hungarian in Budapest. He has participated in international poetry events and readings and won numerous awards for his design and art direction work. Künnap´s poems have been translated into English, German, Italian, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Slovenian and Hungarian. Künnap has published poems together with other poets and inspired Estonian animators: Kaspar Jancis has made an animated cartoon based on one of Künnap´s poems.
Asko Künnap was one of the three founders of the Wordwormer Prize in 2009 for the best and the most fascinating book having appeared between the two Feasts of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Estonia. After Andrus Kivirähk´s black-humour allegory Mees, kes teadis ussisõnu (The Man Who Spoke Snakish, 2007) became immensely popular, Künnap invented a richly illustrated and witty board game about the book, which became very popular as well.