On Caj Westerberg

Issue 1/1980 | Archives online, Authors

Caj Westerberg

Caj Westerberg. Photo: Pentti Sammallahti

Caj Westerberg established his reputation with the publication, in 1967, of his first volume of poems: Onnellisesti valittaen (‘Cheerful complaint’). The work was immediately praised for its descriptive power and visual imagery. The other outstanding feature – preserved in subsequent works – is the author’s capacity for emotion, for a passionate involvement in human existence, casting the sensitive individual from the crest of ecstasy to the trough of despair. In Westerberg’s next two collections, Runous (‘Poetry’, 1968) and En minä ole ainoa kerta (‘I am not the only one’, 1969), these key features are firmly sustained. At the same time, Westerberg is beginning to extend the mordancy of his themes. In his fourth book, Uponnut Venetsia (‘Sunken Venice’, 1972), the style has became move conversational and laconic, but does not deviate from his main thematic concerns. Westerberg’s work can be seen as a cool, developing continuum: all the poems, whether long or short, whether aphoristic epitomes of experience or pure ‘imagistic’ visions, convey a unified individual response to the world and existence, and a prevailing intensity. With each publication, brought out as all his earlier works by Otava, Westerberg has developed and enhanced his style. His two most recent works, Kallista on ja halvalla menee (‘It comes dear and it’s going cheap’, 1975) and Reviirilaulu ‘Territorial song’, 1978), have all the marks of works which will become classics. Westerberg’s poems are moving and full of surprising associations; he is both sensitive to the present and alive to the past. His style maintains a fine balance between the conversational and the stylized. Westerberg takes the role of the poet seriously. At a recent conference he put it thus: ‘The poet’s fundamental impulse is to reveal the hidden. That is one of his tasks. That is his folly. The poet is the seer, the prophet, the truth-teller.’

Translated by Mary Lomas

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