Paradise apple

Issue 2/1998 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Among the poetry published in Finland in 1997, Jyrki Kiiskinen identifies four voices that continue to reverberate long after their books are put down. Pentti Holappa is one of the poets he discusses

Pentti Holappa’s collection Älä pelkää (‘Do not be afraid’) is a mausoleum for murdered love. The poems speak from a juncture between present and past, in the obscurity of their own consciousness: ‘As soon as light penetrates the ambiguity of being, / the fruit falls outside the bounds of paradise.’

Holappa writes eulogies to dead lovers, in the hope that a love now merely imagined will gain clarity of vision. Clarity does indeed radiate from the formal mastery of poems so solidly made in an otherwise chaotic world. Holappa sings and polishes his lines with unobtrusive ease: their diction is both precise and colloquial. The dissonance otherwise characteristic of Holappa’s work has become muted in this new book.

One by one, Holappa strips away illusions that generally make life ‘meaningful,’ thus testing our powers of endurance. The forces of fate in these poems are blind; the animals on our fur farms suffer because we are cruel and lonely on a purposeless via dolorosa. ‘Why just me and / my flesh should be saved / from the carving knife.’

Holappa carries the whole world’s sorrows on his back, but they are true sorrows. In Hades’ vestibule, consolation is offered by one of love’s remembered elements, i.e. touch – which Holappa calls the first sense. It moves him to write poems, and the poet does not speak only the language we use to misunderstand each other.

Translated by Anselm Hollo

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