1 March 2012 | Fiction, poetry

Harri Nordell breaks up grammar, invents words and leaves sentences unfinished. His poems are like minimalist, language-shattering sculptures of words. In her introduction Tarja Roinila compares Nordell’s poems to windows on to another world

Poems from Sanaliekki äänettömyydessä. Valitut runot 1980–2006 (‘Word-flame in silence. Selected poems 1980–2006’, WSOY, 2011)

You are beautiful
light-cupola-ecstasy of the eye

I look at you
from I-silence

daughter, bringer of the Word

involvement has been inscribed
with the name’s black reed

Girl, salt-grain of light
the mighty river of blood rinses memory,

otherness has come through us


If there were
              willow-weaving light,
              if there were
You would be a cloud in my lap,
              if the day of de-parting
were not

You’ll be bare soon,
          weeping’s clothes
will be given you
You’ll be clean soon,
          hoarfrost’s woman
will be yours
Then nuptials ice-music
then forest’s coniferous convoy

empty, black root-bed

A person is left his silent
speechless spouse
The century with its
          light handwriting
bids you farewell

April’s wagon drove into the yard.
I was born, a human head on my shoulders,
          the loon’s cry in my mouth,
wearing the bloody coat of the apostate.

The driver has my memory.
The womb’s wild dusk in his eyes.
From Huuto ja syntyvä puu (‘Scream and a tree being born’, WSOY, 1994)

The summer night is muddy-yellow
A stone in shallow water
You sleep in broken bird-shell-clothes
Word-flame in silence

  Here, on the other side of you where the silk-grebe presses its head into dazzling,
there are always two in silence.

That I didn’t have a name to call you. Light’s impala, wake her softly.

  The days are short, windy series. Drift into their chronologies. In the bay, a genus-less bird
slurs the name of an ancient lake. Anc anc, anc
  I am written into the register of the dead.

  You extended the vessel in which was root and the copper line of the horizon. You had the head of birds. You were dead.
There was nothing else. Dry boulder field, mound of sleep-rocks from which a lake had risen. A lake whose name is the mussel’s name.
  An old man walked the ash heath. I didn’t make it. He was far away. Almost on the edge.

And the black spruce copse grows into the eyes
And the dust-shoe dances, star-clasp

And the hare drives the carriage of metempsychosis
There’s a stone in the carriage, moon and metacarpal
and sleep and copper and water

From Valkoinen kirja (‘White book’, 2006)

Translated by Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah


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