New from the archives

A poet’s perspective

Issue 4/1986 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews | Added 18 August 2016

Aila Meriluoto. Photo: Pertti Nisonen

Aila Meriluoto. Photo: Pertti Nisonen

When Aila Meriluoto burst on to the world of Finnish poetry 40 years ago in the autumn of 1946 she was at once hailed as a youthful prodigy. Praised lavishly by the leading critics, the 22-year-old poet’s first collection, Lasimaalaus, sold in phenomenal numbers: in a couple of years it went through eight editions, or 25,000 copies, which in Finland is still a record figure. Today total sales are well over 30,000.

Two poems attracted particular attention. One was Kivinen Jumala (‘God of stone’), a poem of defiance unleashed by the experience of wartime bombing, in which God is portrayed as having changed into a stone statue, and people as having hardened correspondingly. It was the first reaction of the younger generation to the war – abusive, strong and inevitable, the proclamation of the death of the kind, just God.

The other central poem of the collection was Lasimaalaus (‘Stained glass’) from which the collection took its name: a taut post-symbolist vision and a dazzling synthesis of the oneness of the world. Baudelaire, master of correspondances, might well have been satisfied with it. More…

Poems

Issue 4/1986 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry | Added 18 August 2016

Introduction by Kai Laitinen

Evening Mood

It’s widening:
an evening like a sigh –
languidly spreading across the land.
The tree’s unclothing
its branches of their colours, darkening.
As if something somewhere
were ringing and ringing –
a song straying like an orphan.
The words seem
something I’ve heard:
‘only a shadow –
only a shadow of a dream’

It’s slipping away. It’s dwindling.
Everything – everything – I’ve been given
I’ll give away. More…

Youth revisited

Issue 4/1986 | Archives online, Authors, Extracts, Non-fiction | Added 18 August 2016

Extracts from a diary. Introduction by Kai Laitinen

10.4.46

I thought I might weep today, now that it’s evening and I’m alone. But after all, I’m not weary enough. Instead I’ll read some Rilke: The Book of Hours, Stunden-Buch. Whose pages I turned at seventeen and tried to see. Now it’s all simply backtracking. Rilke’s the weeping I was expecting. That soft bitter swirling I sink into without troubling myself whether it’s good for me or bad.

I’ve been three days without writing a poem and it’s beginning to nag me already. Earlier, I was three months and it bothered me less. But I shan’t weep. I’ll read Rilke. I’m that young monk who believes he’s capable of being some day so afraid his arteries will burst. More…

A Note on Nine Contemporary Poems from Finland

Issue 1/1987 | Archives online, Articles, Fiction, Non-fiction, poetry | Added 18 August 2016

Contemporary Finnish poetry, translated and introduced by Anselm Hollo

The last couple of months, it has been my pleasure to browse around in a tightly ­packed shelf of books of poetry published in Finland in the last five years. On the showing of these, and of the excellent anthology Modern finlandssvensk lyrik (‘Modern Finland-Swedish poetry’, 1980), edited by Claes Andersson and Bo Carpelan, poetry certainly seems to be alive and well in the old homeland. In a way, the sheaf translated here is just first travel notes, individual works that struck my fancy seemed translatable: thus, by no means a ‘representative selection’.

Claes Andersson’s poem ‘When I was born, Helsinki was…’ was quite simply a direct hit (perhaps an unfortunate metaphor in that it deals, in part, with the WW2 air raids on Helsinki) – it brought back personal memories from my early childhood. But beyond those immediate circumstances, it is also a very moving evocation of the magnificent and terrifying world of magic children inhabit. Helena Anhava’s ‘These years…’, with its marvelous image of the great hinge turning in the human psyche at certain points familiar to anyone who has lived into middle age, seemed a fine example of her impressive body of meditative lyric poems, sharing a tenor of wistfulness not uncommon in Finland’s poetry with Bo Carpelan’s ‘You drive up…’, which is also a poem of the pangs of change. In Carpelan’s text, the clash between ‘wonderful clear Vivaldi’ on the protagonist’s car radio and the perceived tawdriness of the environment is beautifully balanced between genuine revulsion for the latter and a self-irony directed against the self-declared ‘finer sensibilities’ of the class that can afford them. Tua Forsström‘s ‘Do you want to hear something’ moves in a lovely dance figure from myth to everyday present: we see the interior world that is Nausicaa’s island shimmering through the exterior in which ‘someone’s/ balcony door whines all night like a cat’. More…

Canberra, can you hear me?

Issue 1/1987 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose | Added 18 August 2016

Johan Bargum. Photo: Irmeli Jung

Johan Bargum. Photo: Irmeli Jung

A short story from Husdjur (‘Pets’, 1986)

Lena called again Sunday morning. I had just gotten up and was annoyed that as usual Hannele hadn’t gone home but was still lying in my bed snoring like a pig. The connection was good, but there was a curious little echo, as if I could hear not only Lena’s voice but also my own in the receiver.

The first thing she said was, ‘How is Hamlet doing?’

She’d started speaking in that affected way even before they’d moved, as if to show us that she’d seen completely through us.

‘Fine,’ I said. ‘How are you?’

‘What is he doing?’

‘Nothing special.’

‘Oh.’

Then she was quiet. She didn’t say anything for a long while.

‘Lena? Hello? Are you there?’

No answer. Suddenly I couldn’t stand it any longer. More…