Search results for "Lassi Nummi"

The forest, everything

31 March 1998 | Authors, Interviews

Lassi Nummi

Lassi Nummi

Lassi Nummi (1928–2012) considered himself a prose-writer who has strayed into poetry. In a career spanning almost half a century and 25 collections of poetry, his preoccupations, and his central metaphors, remained constant: landscape, trees, bushes, blades of grass. Interview (1997) by Tarja Roinila


Now I can see how
each twig is on the bush, each grassblade
       with, all around, the void


My first encounter with the poet Lassi Nummi came with Maisema (‘Landscape’), a novella which appeared in the same year as his first collection of poetry. The experience was startling. The text delineates the building timbers of his subsequent poetry: trees, bushes, blades of grass. Maisema is a dazzlingly modern work, a complete realisation of something Virginia Woolf wrote in the same year, 1925: ‘Let us record the atoms as they fall upon the mind in the order in which they fall, let us trace the pattern, however disconnected and incoherent in appearance, which each sight or incident scores upon the consciousness.’ More…

On Lassi Nummi

31 March 1979 | Archives online, Authors

Lassi Nummi

Lassi Nummi, 1957. Photo: Kuvasiskot / CC-BY-4.0

Lassi Nummi has never been afraid to say that a poem has a right to be poetry. Throughout his thirty-year career in letters he has consistently backed the special task of poetry, its right to independent life. And the other side of this is the unconstrained poem’s tutelage of whatever it is in man that is striving upwards out of the half-light into consciousness.

Nummi lets his poems ring. He is not afraid even of the pastoral, and he risks the ancient methods of the lyric. He thinks a flower garden is acceptable as a garden of flowers, and it is not proper to disparage it as a failed cornfield. With equal consistency Nummi has promoted literature as a social institution – as one of its most prominent representatives himself: a critic and chronicler with a compound eye on events in the visual arts, literature and music. Music is a special component of his own poetry, of course. More…

Lassi Nummi in memoriam 1928–2012

16 March 2012 | In the news

Lassi Nummi. Photo: Jouni Harala

Poet and author Lassi Nummi died on 13 March at the age of 83.

His first collection of poems, Intohimo olemassaoloon (‘A passion for existence’) appeared in 1949. Nummi worked as a journalist, chairman of the Finnish PEN Club and as a member of the Bible translation committee.

Nummi published a couple of prose works and more than two dozen collections of poems;  in an interview by Tarja Roinila* he said he was ‘a prose writer who has strayed into poetry’ and that he regarded himself ‘a fairly old-fashioned poet’.

Nummi attempted to find a synthesis between traditionalism and modernism – the prevailing ‘ism’ in the 1950s Finland – and wrote both metrical, traditional and speech-like, free verse.

Religious, philosophical and existential themes are found in his poetry, strongly featuring imagery of nature, music and travelling. His poems have been translated into six languages.

Nummi’s two sons, Markus and Ilari, became artists as well – Markus, an author, Ilari, a filmmaker.

Above and through everything

Above and through everything
the thin web of life. On an evening like this,
its strands
are stretched to breaking
under the moment’s significange, the light’s
weight. So much empty space,
so much lovely desolation
freed from significance
in us, in the world,
it makes you grow faint.
And here, all dreams have to be dreamed by oneself!
When I am dead, a stone
will dream my dreams.

From Hengitys yössä (‘Breathing in the night’, 1995), translated by Anselm Hollo , *) published in Books from Finland 1/1998

Weird calm

31 March 1998 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

A selection of poems, translated by Herbert Lomas and Anselm Hollo. Interview by Tarja Roinila

Agnosis IV

Set your altar up in the evening,
 in the morning clear it away:
 the wandering goes on. Don't persuade yourself
             of anything, or anyone else:
 fearful forces are epidemic,
 no place is sacred
 for long.
                                 Again and again
                                 the sacred
                                                If you happen to be
 there don't refuse to see.

a light wind
            stirring a treetop:
 a shoal of fish
            in blue abyss

From Hiidentyven (‘Weird calm’, Otava, 1984) More…


31 March 1979 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Lähdössä tänään (‘Leaving today’, 1977) Introduction by Jouko Tyyri


‘The wind’s speaking.’ If the wind were really speaking
could we endure its words
so void, flinty, so groping?
Inside them
they have
salt, horror,
mania: a long-drawn black speechless
roller that wipes the coast clean
of houses, woods, junk. It swashes
your eyes. If I’d had some
feeling. Or thought. If
I was something. If I was I.
It’s gone.
There’s nothing here. Only a draught.
The air moving back and forth, soon to drop.


Orlando di Lasso's melodies
airy, without a touch of soil
                           a little dust on
as much as might be on a butterfly's wing
                           only just so much

Orlando himself, four hundred years
remoulded into loam, coalesced with dust
just like you, you, just like you More…

In memoriam Anselm Hollo 1934–2013

1 February 2013 | In the news

Anselm Hollo. Photo: Gloria Graham; taken at the video taping of Add-Verse, 2005. (Wikipedia)

Anselm Hollo. Photo: Gloria Graham; taken during the video taping of Add-Verse, 2005. (Wikipedia)

Poet and translator Anselm Hollo died in Boulder, Colorado, on 29 January, at the age of 78. His father, Professor J.A. Hollo, translated literature from 14 languages. Anselm, born in Helsinki in 1934, worked with languages all his life, translating from Finnish, English, German, Swedish and French.

In the 1950s he lived in Germany and Austria, and then moved to England to work for the BBC. He published his first collection of poems, Sateiden välillä (‘Between rains ’), in Finnish in 1956. He once said that as a poet he ‘makes things in and out of language’.

In the late 1960s Anselm moved to the United States, where he was to write more than 30 books in English. He was a Professor of Writing and Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, where he lived with his second wife, the visual artist Jane Dalrymple-Hollo. His own poetry is influenced by the 1950s and 1960s Beat Generation, among whom he had several personal friends; he translated Allen Ginsberg and Robert Creeley into Finnish – as well as the two books of poetry by John Lennon.

His last work remains Guests of Space (Coffee House Press, 2007). Notes on the Possibilities and Attractions of Existence: New and Selected Poems 1965–2000 received the San Francisco Poetry Center’s Book Award for 2001. His collection Corvus (2002) was also published in Finland, translated by Kai Nieminen. Among the many literary prizes he received was the Finnish Government Prize for the Translation of Finnish Literature in 1996.

Among his best-known translations of Finnish poetry are poems by Pentti Saarikoski (1937–1983) and Paavo Haavikko (1931–2008), whose work he also translated into German. For many years he served as a member of the literary advisory board of Books from Finland, and translated new work by, for example, Lassi Nummi, Jarkko Laine, Rosa Liksom, Leena Krohn and Riina Katajavuori.

During Anselm and Jane’s visits to Finland it was always enjoyable to talk about literature, art, new books and translation over a glass of wine. Anselm rarely, if ever, said no to requests to translate something: he remained sincerely interested in his native language and the ways it was used for creating fiction. We miss a jovial friend and an exceptionally skilful man of letters.


i.m. Hannes Hollo, 1959–1999

by Anselm Hollo
(Hannes Hollo was his son from the first marriage with poet Josephine Clare)

Fought the hungry ghosts here on Earth
‘What is man?’ asked the King
Alcuin’s reply: ‘A guest of space.’ And time yes time:
The past lies before us, the future comes up from behind
Walking on Primrose Hill or Isle of Wight beaches
Iowa City streets scrambling up snow-covered deer track
To Doc Holliday’s grave in Glenwood Springs
His helmet now shall make a hive for bees
He fought the hungry ghosts here on Earth
Strong & resourceful on his best days,
Patient kind and presente
Returning those with him to here & now
But just as we settle in with our Pepsi and popcorn
THE END rolls up too soon always too soon



(Anselm reads the poem here)

Older and wiser?

9 October 2012 | This 'n' that

Illustration: Virpi Talvitie (from Täyttä päätä. Runoja ikääntyville, ‘Full steam ahead. Poems for ageing people’, edited by Tuula Korolainen and Riitta Tulusto)

Nobody can claim that old age is hot, or media-sexy. Yes, but what are older people really like? Are they the bingo-obsessed grannies in floral frocks or old geezers living in the past of popular opinion?

No longer. In just a few years the baby-boom generation will be entering their seventies, when ‘old age’, in its current Western definition, begins. (Until then, senior citizens are allowed to remain ‘adults’.)

Are the old people’s homes ready for them? This new elderly generation will be wanting to listen to Elvis, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles rather than the tango. More…


31 March 1998 | Fiction, poetry

Agnosis IV

Set your altar up in the evening,
in the morning clear it away:
the wandering goes on. Don't persuade yourself
       of anything, or anyone else:
fearful forces are epidemic,
no place is sacred
for long.
       Again and again
       the sacred
       If you happen to be there
don't refuse to see.

a light wind
       stirring a treetop:
a shoal of fish
       in blue abyss