And yet, after decades

Issue 2/1997 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

If Mirkka Rekola had received the recognition she deserved in the 1960s, and not only gradually during the 1980s, the history of Finnish poetry would look different. She is among our central modernists.

Rekola has been trampled underfoot twice by the politics of the literary world. In the 1950s she unknowingly chose the wrong publisher, the conservative Werner Söderström, when the avant garde were on Otava’s list. In 1962, with the increasing politicisation of literature, the cult figure of the younger generation, Pentti Saarikoski, attacked Rekola, considering her an example of the poetry that was to be discarded.

Thus began Rekola’s long absence from Finnish literature.

Rekola writes astonishing poetry: timeless, universally human and strongly individualist. In linguistic terms, it is extraordinarily daring and persuasive in its smallest words. Her  poems are made most impressive by the profound joy that opens up in them. Emotion does not receive noisy expression, or walk with the crowd; instead, the atmosphere is intimate and composed.

Paradoxically, this withdrawal reveals a dose empathy with fellow human be­ings, nature and the whole of creation. And thus the delight of encounter.

Empathy can be so profound that selfs are exchanged. I and you change places, and who would not be startled on finding himself to be someone else. This experience can be called love, although Rekola does not generally use the word.

Much has been written about the experience of oneness in Rekola’s poems, something that is still, constantly, essential. In the poems, the world does not stop, but opens up, changing constantly, with movement.

In Rekola’s world there are no boundaries, no real opposites. Her world-view can be interpreted by referring simultaneously to the ideas of Christianity and Zen Buddhism, and no conflicts are visible.

In her collection Taivas päivystää (‘Sky on duty’), Rekola’s sliding transitions are also realised in the overall form of the work. The images and themes of neighbouring poems gradually shift, without contrasts. The collection is arranged without sections, so that one passes through the poems as if unknowing.

Rekola’s language is so original that to explain it is a challenge for scholars of language and literature. She has discovered endless ways to apprehend ambiguity.

But there is nothing repellently difficult about Rekola’s language: it invites the reader to join it. Anyone who reads the poems unhurriedly will see, with astonishment, how many ways a sentence, a phrase and a poem can be read. At the same time he will receive an object-lesson in the beauty of the Finnish language and its unsuspected reserves of expression.

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