Archive for December, 1996

Winged fever

Issue 4/1996 | Archives online, Authors, Essays

After the collective and individual catastrophe of the Second World War, doubts notoriously arose as to whether poetry was possible ‘from this time on’. Theodor W. Adorno declared that writing poetry after Auschwitz was impossible. And Tadeusz Rozewicz said he wrote unpoetry for survivors, for the terrorised, for the dead. Poetry was, for him, ‘borrowed scraps of words, the uninteresting words of the great graveyard’. This is a harsh judgement. More than any earlier written word, post-war poetry was confronted by destruction, hunger and, contrariwise, rampant overconsumption.

Many poets of the Sixties and Seventies resolved these questions by asserting that poetry was in fact an anachronism; anyone continuing to write poetry must forget individual alienation, word-magic and music. Poems should be made by abandoning metre and conveying politically correct truth. In making generalisations about reality – while unable to differentiate it from propaganda – these writers divagated from reality, which is distinguished from utopia by its multiplicity and complexity. Poetic modes as varied as the low mimetic, propaganda poetry, ‘concrete poetry’ and even nature poetry thus managed to become foreign to reality. Themes like participation, progress and liberation frequently led to bigotry, utopian cloud-cuckoolands and blind man’s buff with the self. As Arto Melleri’s allegory puts it, the ‘swankeepers’ vainly ‘fish the shattering waves for reflections’. More…

In the land of the living

Issue 4/1996 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems by Arto Melleri. Introduction by Maris Gothóni

The airship Italia

Farewell, darlings,
General Nobile's sailing in his airship
to a glittering death...
whoever knows the journey's end
as he sets out is there already,
wafted on his wing-stubs;
farewell, doubters smiles on your lips
                                          like the imprints of horse-bits:
'he'll never get there this way'
'get there' – as if 'there' were
some place;
in one day you can only manage a day's journey,
it's more realistic, far more, to get the measure
                                          of Perdition;
farewell, darlings,
I'm off with him, his scrivener, I'm stretching
over the verge of tears towards boundless laughter,
the dignified business of tarring and feathering,
I'm making notes: this is a dream, a single night's
a sound mind's storming of the Bastille;
farewell, you who always know better
                                   what should be done than the doers, and how,
you don't do, you know, you put your hat on a shelf
called History, 
General Nobile's flying over the craters of history
northwards, northwards, and the sun's
                                   scoopful of molten tin
is about to splash in the cold ocean,
and the moon's a ball of camphor-soaked cotton wool
wiping the smoking sky,
farewell, darlings, there, flashing ahead,
are the crystal shores of Ultima Thule

From Ilmalaiva Italia (‘Airship Italia’, 1980) More…

Between shadow and sunlight

Issue 4/1996 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Homecoming (translated by David McDuff, published by Carcanet Press, 1993)

It was hopeless trying to keep the window on the yard side clean
Perhaps it was an advantage not to see clearly,
roofs and chimneys, indeed, even the sky became friendly
seen from this renunciation. When it rained
the water formed streets of narrow drops, almost silver-coloured.
I considered them closely.
What use I should have for them I did not know.



Out of this world

Issue 4/1996 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Virkamatka (‘Business travel’, Otava, 1996). Introduction by Jyrki Kiiskinen

I spent a couple of weeks alone at home that summer. My brother was at camp and my father on a business trip. Bored one rainy day, I opened up their last game on the computer. They had been going on about it for weeks.

I began from the beginning, A splendid start: texts backed by imaginative visions, Then darkness. In the middle of it a gold-coloured, glimmering dot. Nothing else. I waited for a long time. Nothing else, I waited. Nothing. Then I pressed the computer’s space-bar. The dot exploded and the explosion filled the entire screen. From its centre swarmed familiar patterns, Diagrams of atomic nuclei, electrons, radiation. More…

Fair game

Issue 4/1996 | Archives online, Authors

“In today’s world, the car is a male
 environment, a tool with which he
 controls the world,’ commented Heimo
 Susi (born 1933) in a recent interview 
in Helsingin Sanomat in connection with 
his first novel Virkamatka (‘Business 
travel’, Otava, 1996).
’And then the car sort of breaks down at 
the end of the book.’

The action of Susi’s novel takes place 
for the most part in a brand-new Opel
 Vectra; at the end of the book, the car is 
in collision with an elk. In traditional 
Finnish style, nature is always stronger 
than humankind, technology and 
civilisation. The book is a mischievous
 account of a department head in the
 ministry of labour on a wild-goose chase up and down the country: he sits 
in meetings, lectures in employment 
bureaus and shows on the overhead
 projector diagrams wittily illustrated by 
his daughter. More…