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Traat debuted in 1962 with a collection of poetry. He has published over 20 anthologies of poetry to date. His poetry frequently deals with social commentary and society's adoration for science. His lyrics praise nature and his native country. He has also translated poetry from Slavic languages (Polish, Macedonian, Czech).
Traat writes about the indigenous Estonian population. His central topics are the changes and the developments of Estonian rural life in the course of centuries, with an emphasis on people's ethical choices. In Trees Were, Trees Were Tender Brothers (1979), a young protagonist has to wage a struggle to keep a farm running, something he never desired to do.
Pasqueflower, Antidote for Sadness (1982/uncensored version 1990) covers the fate of ancient Livonians, conquered and formally aligning with the Christian invaders, while maintaining pagan convictions, and the problems of rural life during the stagnation era Estonian SSR.
Dance around the Steam Boiler (1971; originally a film script, that was finally accomplished in 1988) illustrates with five 'dances' with the steam boiler the changes of rural life in half a century. In the movie, filmed during the perestroika era, a sixth 'dance' has been added, showing the old age of the main characters on the background of the typical rural scenes of 1980s: industrial and technological developments combined with a reckless destruction of the environment.
Traat's short story, The Cross of Power, won the Friedebert Tuglas Award for Short Prose.
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