Archive for June, 2006

The everyday flow

30 June 2006 | Authors, Reviews

Johanna Venho. Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho

Johanna Venho. Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho

Johanna Venho on her own poems

While writing Yhtä juhlaa (‘It’s all a celebration’), my third collection, I was pretty aware of it as a whole. But, generally speaking, the process of writing poetry can’t be fully conscious, or in your control: you can steer it a little, but quite a lot has to be let go. My title shows there’s an irony. It points to the duality of everyday life – and of life in general: both involve celebration and the opposite of celebration.

I’ve played with rhyme – something quite new to me – and reading these poems aloud does, I’ve noticed, work. I’ve recently been having a go at writing song lyrics, too. Something else new is that the collection grows the arc of a story line, and story-telling brings along a fairytale element. More…


30 June 2006 | Fiction, poetry

Poems from Yhtä juhlaa (‘It’s all a big celebration’, WSOY, 2006)

(a square metre, 3.)

Now for the-kick-of-being-the-good-mum:
after the rye porridge
after the sons washed with camomile foam
and slipped into clean sheets
with mummy singing a sweet song.
Something about shadowed snow
and how at the blue twilit-moment one can
go inwards. If you’re up to looking. All that garbage and slag:
ash from the too-small days, clotted with
non-combustible blots, even though here
the sky’s clear
and the windows open to the winds.
Good grief, here we’re making new people.
But all I’d time for
was the track from the dishcloth to the nappy bin,
and back from the children’s painting-table
to the sink. No job
for spoilt girls, this: the prissiest minx
would soon turn woman in this fix:
kids coming next after next,
years of full-time labour
in a square metre where
you make no point about peccadilloes,
because so much is at stake.
You’re no longer a rose,
pimpinella, rosabella,
but subsoil: loam
and spots of unrottable compost.
A feebler person would have reversed on
the first tantrum;
the child’s learnt to say things
and is saying things
I never thought would come. More…

Male parole

30 June 2006 | Authors, Interviews

Hannu Luntiala

Hannu Luntiala. Photo: Jukka Uotila

In his first collection of short stories Hannu Luntiala reinvents the form to examine the lives of 16 men. One story consists of just one long sentence; another is written in the made-up ‘Katalanian’ language; a third omits all the commas

A successful IT boss; a humble Greek Orthodox monk; an old man lying like a vegetable hooked up to a life-support machine. Hannu Luntiala’s collection of short stories presents us with sixteen men’s emotional landscapes. Entitled Hommes, the collection is the debut by Hannu Luntiala (born 1952).

Variety is to be found not only in the characters themselves, but in the language and style of each of Luntiala’s stories. For him language is an integral part of the story; it can open up new perspectives that a simple plot cannot. More…

Nature’s not my thing

30 June 2006 | Fiction, Prose

A short story from Hommes (Tammi, 2006)

Lying unemployed on my sofa I hear a lot of stuff on the radio almost every day you hear some children’s choir chanting the same songs over and over about our country’s blue lakes the sky and all our trees and their white trunks. They’ve all finally worked their way into my subconscious. After hearing enough of these songs my subconscious rears its head and commands my idle body: go to the forest. In a situation like that it’s hard to put up a fight or struggle against something you can’t see or hear or smell that all of a sudden pops into your head.

The great debate was over so quickly that hardly anyone managed to get a word in I think to myself as I lie in bed at night just before falling asleep. More…

Question time

Issue 2/2006 | Archives online, Authors

Ei. Siis kyllä (‘No. That is to say, yes’, WSOY, 2006) by Paavo Haavikko, the incredibly productive and versatile grand old man of Finnish letters, is a series of apothegms – ‘short, witty, instructive sayings,’ according to your basic dictionary definition. Formally, these may remind one of the Egyptian-born French writer Edmond Jabès’s works, Le Livre des Questions (The Book of Questions), but  is not so much a book of questions as it is a book of statements.

As the editor and translator of a number of Haavikko’s works over the past forty years, including two versions of a Selected Poems, two prose works, and, most recently, Kaksikymmentä ja yksi (One and Twenty), a wild mock epic of a band of Finnish Vikings travelling down to Constantinople and on to Africa, I have gained familiarity with the poet’s favourite images and strategies. He employs indirection and ambiguity with great skill:

‘There is no answer without a question, and without knowing the question you cannot understand the answer. But it has always been our habit to ask the question ourselves, then answer it ourselves. That is the only way to gain scientifically valid answers. Therefore, questions must be constructed with exactitude, to prevent their turning into answers.’ More…

On becoming a forest

Issue 2/2006 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Extracts from Ei, siis kyllä (‘No. That’s to say, yes’, WSOY, 2006). Introduction by Anselm Hollo

Propaganda-as-prayer-wheel is a powerful weapon, because it is a
If there is nothing else to write about, it is always possible to write a
biography of Stalin, with all the spices.

A neat composition has always sufficed as good history, one according
to which an administration has done its best when it has elected itself.

Direct and indirect conclusions are impossible.
‘Legitimised historians explicate the nature of documents in a taciturn

Scholarship cannot be based on what Aristotle did not say.
What Aristotle did not say is not a fact.

It is useless. Silence alone is a helpful rhetorical figure. But I do not know
how to use it. Nor am I trying to learn.




Walking through a picture

Issue 2/2006 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

The short stories of a painter-author Joel Pettersson (1892-1937) were hardly known by his contemporaries. Juha Virkkunen introduces one of them

Finland, the ‘land of a thousand lakes’, is also the land of at least 120,000 islands. In the largest cluster of islands, Åland, between Finland and Sweden, people cherish their old Swedish-language roots.

Åland has given birth to a unique literature which transcends the bounds of regionalism. Its best-known contemporary authors include Anni Blomqvist (1909-1990) and Ulla-Leena Lundberg (born 1947). They have described not only the hard life of fishermen, but also the changing living conditions of shipowners.

Joel Pettersson was both a painter and a writer, but his stories were not made available in printed form until in the 1970s; translations into Finnish were published in the 1990s. More…


Issue 2/2006 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

(Landskap, 1919). Introduction by Juha Virkkunen

12 March

To begin with, there’s a great white field. The field is criss-crossed with low slender fences and little patches of yellow-green stubble peering up through the snow, and hare-tracks slanting away towards the stubble. But we won’t notice the fences and the stubble and the hare tracks. Because we’re going to take a wider, more sort of decorative view.

So we see the great white field. And where the field ends a dark green screen has been drawn. The screen has been cut short rather amusingly in the middle, so one can see yet another white held. This belongs to another village. And this other village itself has crept up timidly to the forest-clad hill and lies close to it, so we don’t notice this other village. Because we want to take a wider view of things. More…