Among the poetry published in Finland in 1997, Jyrki Kiiskinen identifies four voices that continue to reverberate long after their books are put down. Markku Paasonen is one of the four poets he discusses
‘I did not choose the cause, the cause chose me,’ wrote Pentti Saarikoski in the Sixties, when he thought he had found his life’s purpose in communism. Thirty years later, Markku Paasonen in his first collection Aurinkopunos (‘Sunweave’) writes: ‘I did not choose; the sea but the sea chose.’
The juxtaposition of those lines says something about the change Finnish poetry has undergone. Paasonen does not write poems ‘reeking of life’ but returns to primary elements, to a previously proscribed lyrical vocabulary. Since nothing is born out of nothing, Paasonen resists the romantic image only up to the point where he needs to acknowledge his debt to tradition, and then stages an often tongue-in-cheek conversation with it.
Even though the sea is a shopworn symbol, there is room in it for all manner of flotsam, including ideologies. There is no order in the world of Aurinkopunos, there are only struggling forces: ‘Let water and fire pierce one another./ This is the world. This happens. / The void does not happen.’ The opposing forces mate in the alchemist’s womb-shaped alembic, the poet crossbreeds ideas and frames images and layers of history fertile with new ideas. The scenery gains a historical dimension of depth.
Paasonen’s poetic language is masterful reminiscent, even in its mannerisms, of the late Octavio Paz’s exuberant tropical poetry. But our man does live in Helsinki, where it may snow in May.
Translated by Anselm Hollo
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About the writer
Poet, writer, translator – and former Editor-in-Chief of Books from Finland – Jyrki Kiiskinen (born 1963) has published poems, novels and books for children. His collection of poems Kun elän (‘When I live’, 1999) won the Dancing Bear poetry prize in 2000.
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