Archive for September, 2007

Heroes and villains of One and Twenty

Issue 3/2007 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

In his epic poem Kaksikymmentä ja yksi (One and Twenty, 1974) the poet Paavo Haavikko combines the imaginary ancient heroes of the national epic, the Kalevala, and the violent history of early second-millennium Byzantium, interpreting the mythical Sampo – a magical wealth-bringing device – of the Kalevala as the mint of the Byzantine empire. The American poet and critic Rachel Blau DuPlessis takes an outsider’s look at this metaphysical, capricious poetic chronicle

One and Twenty by Paavo Haavikko tells of a band of Northland adventurers who sail into the Black Sea to Byzantium via Russian lakes and portages and then return north. We do not know where the band of Twenty-One comes from precisely (are they from ‘Finland’ or from ‘Russia’)? We know only that their adventures propel them over a wide territory, from Novgorod to Byzantium. They are like nomadic mercenaries, and they witness a number of city-state and imperial power struggles in the 11th–13th centuries, well before the nation state consolidations of modernity that might call forth the idealising hero-creation of particular ‘national’ epics. More…

The wisdom of the harvester

30 September 2007 | Authors, Reviews

Eeva Tikka

Eeva Tikka. Photo: Gummerus

In our fast-paced times, many people throw themselves into the fast-flowing current of stimulus. Eeva Tikka has remained on the shore, and on her own two feet. Her works include environmentally polemical tales and poems marked by nature mysticism and religious searching, but she is best known for her short prose.

Tikka (born 1939), who has won four Government Literature Prizes, worked as a biology teacher before beginning her career in writing. Her works dealing with everyday life, human relationships, and northern Karelian nature have been translated into five languages. More…

A slow passion

30 September 2007 | Fiction, Prose

A short story from the collection of short stories Hidas intohimo (‘A slow passion’, Gummerus, 2007)

I don’t want to interfere with it. If something comes of it, then something comes of it. You can’t interfere with time, or fate, or another person. Time ripens things on its own. Fate takes a longer view of things than people do. Like the prophet says, there is a time for every purpose, for my purposes and other people’s.

This garden cottage is a good place to watch everything quietly, a ringside seat for someone who doesn’t want to flail around getting smashed up. The potatoes bloom when it’s time for them to bloom, depending on the length of the summer, the weather, and the time they were planted. Their white and purple flowers are worthy of admiration– potato flowers are flowers, after all. But when the flowers are just opening, it’s not yet time to go digging around among the roots. You have to restrain yourself and wait until the tubers form. You have to wait until they’re finished blooming and the flowers are replaced by plumping green, poisonous berries – though not all potato varieties produce them. But if your fingers are really itching for them, you can poke into the dirt and grope around a little before it’s really time, feel for tubers and remove them carefully, patiently, leaving the plant undisturbed for the smaller ones to grow. If the groping turns up something, you can slip away and savour it, but you still have to wait before you can dig up the whole plant with its rootstock, its beautiful pure tubers heaved up onto the soil, as if Life were offering itself on a silver salver. Then you can have them. They’re ready. But it takes time. Many good things are destroyed by impatience. More…

One and twenty

Issue 3/2007 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

(Extracts from the epic poem Kaksikymmentä ja yksi, Otava, 1974)

[Canto I]

Twenty-one and a sail, days and nights.
              Nights, they sleep. Days, they row, days and days up the Nevá,
they row, stop at night, pull the vessel with ten pairs of oars
              across the bare water,
from the Nevá to the Roiling Waves, from the Roiling Waves
              up to Novgorod, from Novgorod to the headwaters,
                        and from there across the isthmus,
over round logs, running the last log up to the prow, they pull,
they row, they descend, they pull, they sail toward Pohja,
               the Southland.
Twenty-one and a sail, days and nights,
              nights, they sleep, they row, day and night, up the Nevá.
The rower turns into arms, the arms turn into palms,
              the palms turn into oars, the oars turn into the river, the river runs.
Night changes to day, day changes to autumn, autumn to wind,
              the wind turns into a sail,
as one single bird ten pairs of oars pairs of wings fly upriver,
              across the isthmus, all night without stopping
they pull, they float the vessel, they keep going
              toward the Southland.
And South is the name of a slave.
They stand in the Southland's yard.
              Bent, Bent, Nightbird, Big Toe, Crow's Son, Cuckoo's Son,
Väinö's Son, Dead Man’s Son, Whitefish, Black Dick
              Man’s Wood, Broom, Lover Boy, Pumpkin,
Water Cloak, Fishless, Stocking Foot, Fist, Mast and Fishery.
              Bent and Bent are twins, their father is also a Bent,
                      Bent the Guardian of the Spears.



Issue 3/2007 | Archives online, Essays, On writing and not writing

Writer's block

The poet Jouni Inkala finds the words-to-be of his slowly forming poems unbribable

My little fingertip, the size of
a crocodile brain, and a turpentine-taste
on my palate monitor this moment
on the unoxygenated
planet of weariness.
One will be baptised – spray paint
suddenly swishing its message
in my brains – as often in my life,
with something darker than water
freezing in the font, and I'll recall
it's actually a donkey's-years-old
message from my own stanzas.  More...

Oh heiferiness and humanness

30 September 2007 | Fiction, poetry

Kesäillan kevyt käsitteellisyys.
III laulu: Suvisimfonia, omistettu Joel Lehtoselle.
‘A summer evening’s slight conceptualness’.
III song: Summer symfony, dedicated to the author
Joel Lehtonen (1881–1934)
Eros (WSOY, 2002)

A summer evening’s slight conceptualness

Ah summer evening, and its eveningness,
its prodigious wonders and their bridgefulness
when the nightunited seamlessness
steals into one’s heart with restfulness

O heiferiness and humanness,
ah shivering shimmeringness,
innocents’ innocuousness
and vastness with its stresslessness –
five or six chicks of a dabchick,
and deep water, lapfulness.

Our blue sky’s mirrored changefulness!
the spruces’ tall topliness, their tips’ sacredness
the yellow-billed black singer’s flutiness.
Nested cosiness, mutual tootiness! More…

On life and death

Issue 3/2007 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Jouni Inkala’s selected poems are subtitled Minuutin ja sen puolikkaan laajenevassa universumissa, meaning ‘In a minute and its half’s expanding universe’ (WSOY, 2007). It blends the poems’ studious precision with a dash of poetic freedom, open wonder before ultimate questions. Inkala’s eternal themes are in fact existential: the passage of time and the question of death preoccupy the persona.

But let’s be clear about this: Inkala’s poems are not without mischief and dark humour. ‘Tail references’ is a trope of humanity and mice. ‘In two things they’re [mice] more experienced than we. / They understand they’re in constant mortal danger. / That the trap is swift and silent.’ The current condition humana, with all its peculiarities, has generated much of his poetry. Sometimes a mythical reading is implied, a comtemporary, less ‘poetical’ occasion given a mythical dimension. ‘Only several thousands years after her friend / did a woman leap down from a fourth-floor balcony.’ (‘Ikaros in Helsinki’) More…

Indebted to the centuries

Issue 3/2007 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Jouni Inkala’s Minuutin ja sen puolikkaan laajenevassa universumissa. Valitut runot 1992–2007 (‘In a minute and its half’s expanding universe’, WSOY, 2007)

Tail references

Mice don’t know that in the case of a human being
the death of a dear one may paralyse
a person’s capacity for years and years.

But in two things they’re more experienced than we.
They understand they’re in constant mortal danger.
That the trap is swift and silent.
That poison is a tear of awareness rising from the heart.

They also realise that in a cat’s claws they fly
like jackknives in the hands of a knife thrower.
And that when the audience finally gets round
to wakening up their hand~ in a rising storm of applause,
they won’t be distinguishable from the arena spotlights
or the ringmaster’s tails.

After their full term of service the mice pass out
from this time to the other side, and there see a miracle:
the sun’s heart beating six hundred times a minute.

                            In Helsinki, recalling
                            the Pinder Circus