New from the archives

13 March 2015 | This 'n' that

Eeva-Liisa Manner

Eeva-Liisa Manner. Photo: Tammi.

Today we have a real treat – a selection of the sumptuously minimalist poetry of Eeva-Liisa Manner (1921–1995) by her near-contemporary, the British poet Herbert Lomas (1924–2011).

Born in Helsinki, Manner spent her youth in Viipuri, in what was then part of Finland; her life was, like Eeva Kilpi’s, marked by evacuation from her home and the subsequent loss of Karelia to the Soviet Union in the Second World War. Her breakthrough collection, Tämä matka (‘This journey’, 1956) marked a major arrival on the modernist poetry scene and her work has been widely translated. Always lyrically minimalist, Manner’s poetry sometimes seemed to approach the limits of language – silence:

The words come and go.
I need words less and less.
Tomorrow maybe
I’ll not need a single one,

she wrote in Niin vaihtuvat vuoden ajat (‘So change the seasons’), as early as 1964.

Lomas brought to the delicate, beautiful textures of Manner’s poetry with its themes of grief, suffering and loneliness a bluff Yorkshire, and entirely masculine, sensibility. For him, Manner had a ‘splendid sanity’ and sense of humour; hers was an oeuvre ‘that heals by listening and recovery’.

Manner’s work has more recently been translated by another English writer, Fleur Jeremiah, in a volume entitled Bright, dusky, bright (Waterloo Press, 2009). A sample of the approach taken by a woman of a different generation can be found here.

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