An intimation of Paradise

Issue 4/1984 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Paratiisiaavistus (‘An intimation of Paradise’, 1983). Introduction by Pertti Lassila

Satu Salminiitty (born 1959) has published only one collection of poetry since her first appeared in 1981, but with these two volumes she has achieved considerable success. She writes with a fine rhetoric using language and rhythm that are far removed from those of spoken Finnish. Religious pathos has a prominent place in her work, and her poems often derive from praise, prayer or even magic incantations; Salminiitty is a creator of vision who trusts to her metaphysical intuition, a quality not generally discernible among today’s Finnish poets. Equally rare is her lively faith in the goodness and beauty of people and of the world. A conscious rejoinder to materialism, pessimism and fear of the future can be read in her poems. Neither faith nor joie de vivre nor sensual love tempt her to irony or to distress. Her work brings to mind that of her Finland-Swedish predecessor Edith Södergran. The idea of surrendering one’s individuality is very close to Salminiitty, of merging with the elements; water is one of her central symbols. To be gathered into the totality of things is not, for Salminiitty, a tragic, but rather a triumphant experience; for her there is no contradiction between the individual and the world. Her religious intuition carries her beyond such problems. Life after death has in Salminiitty’s poetry an importance that it seldom achieves in the work of other contemporary Finnish poets. What may be a sign of the times is the critique of rationalism that appears, dimly reflected, in her poems, but the critique appears not as an interdiction but as a willingness to place her trust in metaphysics. From the beginning Salminiitty’s poetry has been mature, fresh despite a certain richness of ornament, and emotionally telling despite its lack of discord.


Supreme spell

Not a bad notion perhaps
to be lying
deep, entrenched
grass stalk acrobats
and gauging the speed of clouds,– perhaps

not a bad notion, above
the sky’s aquamarine, above night’s lead and charcoal


All around would swish
more wooingly than the huge conurbations
                                       the stupendous
root cosmos, its
soft, porous life like skin, ah
like skin ... ALPHA! and all around would hiss
               the skull speeches of lost minds, ah
               the consensus of insatiable worms:
               In the Kingdom of Harmony
the symbiosis of bonemeal and mould ...

But perhaps it wouldn’t after all
be a bad notion
to be that humus, piled velvet:

Elvish dance

The tuned moments: you touch the large scale
of light and air.
Earnestly, enchantingly

We’re dancing, our light bones like delicate chalklines
glimmer through, insects’
electric limbs.

I know already:
your essence – it’s hope! To me
revealed, into my
earth descended on elfin toes! Your essence

invites us to God
who rejoices in us like a slender wind:
'I'm young
and full of omens.'
the strings of light and air:

Healing water

Like lightness of water
is his face, a track of heaven
in his laughter, I go along
the highway of his teeth of his lips
into the earnestness of heat,
into death.

But the water's full of games, affluent,
healing water
spurting with children's tricks. I try
to grasp his hair:
                              it spreads out
like seaweed
            ecstatic, licentious,
gusty, waterborne

is this lust
for the man I love.


Mornings, their holy eyes, overflowing,
moist. Eyelashes glued
with night’s milk.

When hope floods over all
the morning’s honeycells, all human palms
are brimming bowls
of just-awakened exhaling

Lord have mercy!

When hope's breasts spurt, something tears – the sky
shows through
             and exactly what's impossible ... is

more more more

than the case;
Lord have mercy!

When hope’s overfull, in the midst of all the dying
that alone is enough
to kill: the spring, the sudden vision
of the holy of holies.

Spring’s blade, the buds’ swelling
agony, the blue dagger,
light on the leaves.

Translated by Herbert Lomas


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