Sightseeing in wonderland

30 September 2001 | Authors

Markku Paasonen

Photo: C-G Hagström

The new collection of prose poems by Markku Paasonen (born 1967), Voittokulku (‘Triumphal march’, Tammi), is a charming collection of imagistic textures born out of intellectual and emotional impetuosity. His prize-winning earlier collections of poetry, Aurinkopunos and Verkko (‘Sunbraid’, 1997, and ‘The net’, 1999, WSOY), were well-received. Writing about the first collection in Books from Finland 2/1998, fellow poet and former editor of Books from Finland Jyrki Kiiskinen said it reminded him of the late Octavio Paz’s exuberant tropical poetry: ‘But our man does live in Helsinki, where it may snow in May.’

Multi-dimensional, breathing incidents grow from the entrails of the book, throwing their nets over story-like motifs – they themselves cannot always know whether their prey will be the urban landscape and its excretions, darkly radiant in the human body, or perhaps the dross of life, revealed in the ruins of a demolished block of flats. The narrative pulse of language blows through both emptiness and satiety, wandering through a previously unknown wonderland and the mathematically mysterious creatures that populate it, living on the brink of the precipices of their own existence.

In the fairy-tale like urban quagmire of moments and stories, the charm of direction-finding lies in the fact that the plot- and dreamlike images each have at birth a tone that is always a step, scalp, bloody footprint or shout wilder, more revealing and, interestingly, more consoling. The stories’ genetic and hybrid variations force the reader to drill into their inner space, to submerge himself in their languidly extending, intoxicating depths, where surprisingly voiced and formed elements hum: ‘I’m muttering this at night when the city lies tired beside me, the slow city whose sewers suck liquid from the dead until the dead petrify into the stone on which the city sleeps. I lie tired on the soft spot beneath the city’s bones where the hours of light melt together and darkness is born…’.

The stone-dust of the urban landscape, the slashing pain of flesh and the roar of the subcutaneous cells produce a peculiar garbage catacomb of beauty. From its junctions, ring roads and roundabouts a fascinating route leads to the place where different voices meet in coincidences garnished with original humour, which nevertheless always seem inevitable.

The chorus of the stories furiously reveals its different tones and tempos, and its skilful conductor, shaping the whole into an assured synthetic wholeness, has been given an entire army of previously undiscovered species, genuses and classes – like knowledge growing from the depths of expectation, in which ‘one can submerge oneself, in which one swims in the sea in all directions, in which the mountain of the sea bottom moves, and when the quaking begins, begins slowly, the beginning lasts for years and intensifies when one thinks that no more…’.

The vigorous, gold-scented narrative of Markku Paasonen’s prose poems transforms the weather conditions of various microclimates and the elements that sleep in the cores of experience into a set of prisms that refracts in words. It illuminates personally furnished, self-dissolving and self-rebuilding homes, for they are something completely new to life, matter that writhes in a constant state of parturition.


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