Ha-ha-ha-ha

(Couplet)
Comic
/In Estonian/

Juhan Viiding

1.
Lately in Estonia there is a lot of fun
of course it depends on the place it’s not everywhere
yesterday under a bush I found a (naked) woman
this fun made me laugh I laughed: ha ha ha ha
2.
In the town of Pärnu a woman had an affair
the husband was away she went to bed with another
who for some time before had desired her
the folk of Pärnu had a reason to laugh they laughed: ha ha ha ha
3.
A very funny story happened recently in Türi
a drunkard went into the street without pants
later with his head clear again shame came over that Jüri
the folk of Türi had a reason to laugh they laughed: ha ha ha ha
4.
Again under a bush I found a (naked) woman
this fun made me laugh I laughed: ha ha ha ha
lately in Estonia there is a lot of fun
of course it depends on the place it’s not everywhere
Translated by J. Talvet and H.L. Hix

 

Sometimes the impact of a single poet can be so powerful and overwhelming that his influence will dominate the poetic mainstream for more than a decade. This was certainly the case with Juhan Viiding (1948-1995), who published his most important works under the pen-name Jüri Üdi (not a simple
pseudonym, but a consciously developed and portrayed alter ego). His strongly decentred, allegorical and polylogical writing, with puzzling ambiguities and rapid changes of perspective, became a universal point of reference for the majority of young poets in the 1970s and 1980s. No other Estonian poet has
generated such a flow of imitations, emulations, allusions and remodellings: one might say that Jüri Üdi was the principal mould for poetic language for a whole generation. The poetry of Jüri Üdi became widely acknowledged in 1971, after his appearance in a volume with three previously unpublished poets, called Nerve Print (Närvitrükk, 1971). Soon more books followed, and in 1978 Juhan Viiding could publish a comprehensive selection I was Jüri Üdi (Ma olin Jüri Üdi), thus concluding his most creative
phase with a gesture of self-abolition. This book also included a short final sequence called Poems by Juhan Viiding; however, the difference between the two poetical personalities had not yet become clearly visible. Two years later Viiding published a new book, that still carried a resemblance with the poetry of Jüri Üdi; it was not until 1983 that the readers became convinced of his new, more confessional orientation. After that, Juhan Viiding seems to have written but rarely. In 1995 Juhan Viiding committed suicide.
Juhan Viiding was a professional actor in the Estonian Drama Theatre, acting in several important roles (Peer Gynt, Hamlet etc). His expressive manner of reading and singing his poetry made him a living legend. Several performances were recorded (either live or in the studio), and every reader of his poetry can also recall the highly personal timbre of his voice, that seems to be part of his artistic singularity. In 1998 the Collected Poems of Jüri Üdi and Juhan Viiding were published: this volume has been reprinted several times.
Text by Hasso Krull