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7 May 2010 | This 'n' that

Helvi Juvonen (1950s). Photo: WSOY

‘…A strange tapir / (the bi-coloured one) / a wondrous tapir (the many-toed one) / circles the tree, goes round and about, / a small word hangs from the tip of his snout….’

Helvi Juvonen (1919–1959) wrote nature-inspired poetry; she was a fan of the 19th-century American poet Emily Dickinson, whose work she also translated. Her short adult life, in the drab Helsinki of the post-war years, was burdened by poverty and illness, and yet she wished to ‘toast the richness of our lives’.

The literary scholar Emily Jeremiah has translated a handful of Juvonen’s poems and takes a look at her work in this, the 15th part of a series devoted to classic Finnish authors (also available in our archive are essays about Kirsi Kunnas, Henry Parland and Sirkka Turkka). Helvi Juvonen: small words celebrate ‘the richness of our lives’