Search results for "Sirkka Turkka"

Nature girl: on the poetry of Sirkka Turkka

21 January 2010 | Authors, Reviews

Sirkka Turkka with a friend. Photo: Pertti Nisonen

Sirkka Turkka writes precise, lucid sentences, as if composing a treatise. But her poems often relate utterly loopy things; the work is playful, frisky. It is not based on explication or hidden themes. When it refers to abstract matters, it always couples them with concrete reality, with natural or everyday occurrences. ‘Trees have the snowy faces of ancestors, and on the road where dogs walk in their wind-blasted trousers, silence eats itself like silk.’

The poems contain numerous allusions to literature and culture, including popular culture. The tone can be parodic in these instances, but not critical; rather, a new point of departure is established, as when Turkka writes about Hamlet in her 1970s collection, Yö aukeaa kuin vilja (‘The night opens like corn’). ‘On long, silent winter days, when his father immersed himself in additional studies or demonstrations of learning, Hamlet would shut himself up in his room in order to rewrite history. He colonised countries and swapped their locations. At one stage he even thought of making the sun rise in the West and America encounter Columbus, but he restrained himself.’ More…

On Sirkka Turkka

30 June 1982 | Archives online, Authors

Sirkka Turkka

Sirkka Turkka. Photo: Pertti Nisonen


I met Sirkka Turkka towards the end of the sixties; she was a friend of a girl-friend of mine.

We called her Hemuli. Not that she bore any resemblance to the Hemulen of the Moomin books, but she did view the world with the same charitable curiosity as some of Tove Jansson’s immortal characters.

In the evenings Hemuli would speak with wit and wisdom, as the sky darkened, then paled towards dawn. Her words were spontaneous: she talked of nature, of the city, always with a gentle understanding, a compelling magic which dissolved ideas into music, full of a sad beauty, echoes of loneliness, painful and happy memories. She looked life straight in the eye, without illusions.

What I’m saying, Sirkka Turkka was a master of the spoken word. She was a story-teller, a ballad-singer, a reciter of epic tales, creating literature of a kind no longer recognized as literature. More…

A poet of the fresh air

30 June 1987 | Archives online, Authors, Interviews

Sirkka Turkka

Sirkka Turkka. Photo: Pertti Nisonen

Sirkka Turkka is interviewed by Markku Huotari

Snowflakes are already covering the forest, and an angry wind is blowing off Lake Lohjanjärvi. It is autumn, and in the courtyard, at the roots of a stunted rowan, is a lounge chair, its paint already peeling.

‘I’ve left the chair there because my mother used to sit in it and knit.’

I start at Sirkka Turkka’s comment. In my mind is her last-but-one volume of poetry, Vaikka on kesä (‘Although it’s summer’, 1983); its poems sound a contemporary lament, occasioned by her mother’s death.

‘There’s nothing made-up in my poetry,’ says Sirkka Turkka.

Landscape, nature, the circular path of life – all of these have left their wounds in Sirkka Turkka’s poetry. But as she writes in Tule takaisin, pikku Sheba (‘Come back, little Sheba’, 1986), winner of the Finlandia Prize 1987, ‘from the wounds life grows’. More…

Jouko Turkka’s factory of ideas

30 September 1986 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Jouko Turkka (born 1942) is a man of theatre by profession, not a writer. But according to him, all theatre people want to write: dramatic art is very transient, somehow one would like to immortalise one’s thoughts. ‘I want to destroy this virus’, he says in his book Aiheita (‘Themes’, 1983). ‘I don’t want future generations to waste their lives on this. – I have set down these “themes” of mine, in as simple a form as possible, just to show that I too have had a go at it. – Now I have got them off my chest, I need never write anything again.’

The following year Turkka published a novel, Kantelu oikeuskanslerille (‘A case for the Chancellor of Justice’), this year his play Hypnoosi (‘Hypnosis’) was performed at the Helsinki City Theatre; and this year, too, his play Lihaa ja rakkautta (‘Meat and love’) was performed in Gothenburg, Sweden. Turkka – theatre director, producer, former rector of the Theatre Academy (1983-85), where he is currently professor of theatre directing – evidently could not shake off the writing bug as easily as he had thought. More…

Animals, thy neighbours

30 March 2005 | Authors, Reviews

Sirkka Turkka.  Photo Tomi Kontio

Sirkka Turkka. Photo Tomi Kontio

‘Everyone’s always in a hurry. In the grave it stops.’

In her new volume Sirkka Turkka (born 1939) appears as an even greater and more pitiless poet. Niin kovaa se tuuli löi (‘So bitterly the wind struck’, Tammi, 2004) – her twelfth volume, the first having being published in 1973 – is an unadorned and searching portrayal of death and the grief that accompanies it. It takes a thoroughly mature poet to handle major feelings as uninhibitedly as she does, and without letting the empathetic glow fade under the documentation.

Animals have always played an important role in Turkka’s somewhat melancholy but vital verse, with its highly individualised concrete language. In 1987 she received the Finlandia Literature Prize for her Tule takaisin, pikku Sheba (‘Come back, little Sheba’, Tammi, 1986; see Books from Finland 4/1988). Little Sheba was a small dog, one of the poet’s dearest friends. Turkka has worked as a stable manager, and horses are frequently central in her work. Domestic and farm animals are always a presence, and here they appear as tokens of the fragility of life and mortality. A hare, a horse, a dog and a lamb are among the animals whose deaths are dramatised. More…

It’s four o’clock and the dog is puzzled

26 September 2013 | This 'n' that

Cover image: ‘Autumn reflections’ by author and painter Saara Tikka

Cover image: ‘Autumn reflections’ by author and painter Saara Tikka

Apart from writing poetry for forty years, Sirkka Turkka has worked as a stable master and as a librarian – and she is a wizard in creating portraits of dogs in her poems.

Something kept me awake late. Something woke me up early. It’s four o’clock and the dog is puzzled. He tries to continue his dream: he was just about to catch a squirrel he barked at all of yesterday. He leaves me quite alone in silence, in which not a single breeze stirs. What is in the past ceases to be, what is to come has no significance. There is only the sun, just about to come up. And the calm surface of the lake and the coffee cup, from which leisurely steam rises.’ (From Minä se olen [‘It’s me’], 1973)

Elk, horse, raven, reindeer, jackdaw, fox. Turkka’s universe is populated with creatures, often wiser than man: man may have lost his heart, or ‘he thinks it’s a distant land’, but ‘in dogs the heart is where it should be: just after the muzzle, boulder-like, baby-faced and willing.’ (From Yö aukeaa kuin vilja [‘The night opens like corn’], 1978).

Emily Jeremiah, scholar and translator (her work includes poems by Eeva-Liisa Manner, novels by Asko Sahlberg and Kristina Carlson), found Turkka’s creatures a while ago, and as a result a selection of Turkka’s poems, entitled A Sure Star in a Moonless Night, was published recently by Waterloo Press (UK).

Melancholy: it does go well with autumn, doesn’t it? ‘Once more the stars are like a tearful ballad, and always in the evenings / the dogs tune their cracked violins.’ (From Mies joka rakasti vaimoaan liikaa [‘The man who loved his wife too much’, 1979])

Slow, beautiful snow

30 June 1998 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Among the poetry published in Finland in 1997, Jyrki Kiiskinen identifies four voices that continue to reverberate long after their books are put down. Sirkka Turkka is one of the four poets he discusses

Sirkka Turkka welds demotic expressions, Biblical overtones, and Finnish pop songs together like a Jesus hanging out with publicans and prostitutes. She does this quite seamlessly, creating a lively verbal landscape: ‘Poetry / is completely senseless, like a mind / open all the time, babbling.’ But as it moves along in its self-identification with a farrago of phrases and sayings, the babble turns dense and multidimensional. The reader of Nousevan auringon talo (‘The house of the rising sun’) is invited to watch the construction and continuous renewal of an identity. More…


30 June 1982 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Sirkka Turkka is among the most important poets who started their work in the 1970s. So far she has published five collections of poetry and one work in prose. ‘I speak of death when I mean to speak of life,’ writes Sirkka Turkka in one of the poems in her collection Mies joka rakasti vaimoaan liikaa (‘The man who loved his wife too much’, 1979). The theme of death is close at hand, too, in the previously unpublished poems printed below. Introduction by Arto Kytöhonka

Before death itself comes
it paints the pine boles red
around this house
It erects a moon in the sky, a luminous moon,
set on edge like an old dish
with the light enamel peeling off.
Onto this house, over which
night is now pleating.
And the house, in the veering waters, in the clinging waters,
is slowly preparing itself, quite by itself, for death. More…

A Note on Nine Contemporary Poems from Finland

31 March 1987 | Archives online, Articles, Fiction, Non-fiction, poetry

Contemporary Finnish poetry, translated and introduced by Anselm Hollo

The last couple of months, it has been my pleasure to browse around in a tightly ­packed shelf of books of poetry published in Finland in the last five years. On the showing of these, and of the excellent anthology Modern finlandssvensk lyrik (‘Modern Finland-Swedish poetry’, 1980), edited by Claes Andersson and Bo Carpelan, poetry certainly seems to be alive and well in the old homeland. In a way, the sheaf translated here is just first travel notes, individual works that struck my fancy seemed translatable: thus, by no means a ‘representative selection’.

Claes Andersson’s poem ‘When I was born, Helsinki was…’ was quite simply a direct hit (perhaps an unfortunate metaphor in that it deals, in part, with the WW2 air raids on Helsinki) – it brought back personal memories from my early childhood. But beyond those immediate circumstances, it is also a very moving evocation of the magnificent and terrifying world of magic children inhabit. Helena Anhava’s ‘These years…’, with its marvelous image of the great hinge turning in the human psyche at certain points familiar to anyone who has lived into middle age, seemed a fine example of her impressive body of meditative lyric poems, sharing a tenor of wistfulness not uncommon in Finland’s poetry with Bo Carpelan’s ‘You drive up…’, which is also a poem of the pangs of change. In Carpelan’s text, the clash between ‘wonderful clear Vivaldi’ on the protagonist’s car radio and the perceived tawdriness of the environment is beautifully balanced between genuine revulsion for the latter and a self-irony directed against the self-declared ‘finer sensibilities’ of the class that can afford them. Tua Forsström‘s ‘Do you want to hear something’ moves in a lovely dance figure from myth to everyday present: we see the interior world that is Nausicaa’s island shimmering through the exterior in which ‘someone’s/ balcony door whines all night like a cat’. More…

Dialogues with death

30 September 1992 | Archives online, Authors

Pekka Tarkka reassesses the work of Väinö Linna (1920–1992) and introduces an extract from Täällä Pohjantähden alla (‘Here beneath the North Star’, 1959–62)

Relations between Finland and Russia – and, analogically, the poor tenanted farm and the rich rectory – and their descent into violence are the subjects of Linna’s great novels: Tuntematon sotilas (The Unknown Soldier, 1954) describes ordinary soldiers in the Finno-Soviet war of 1941-44; Täällä Pohjantähden alla is at its most powerful in its depiction of the civil war fought in 1918 between Reds and Whites.

The slice of Finnish local history that Linna recounts reflects 50 years of world history,’ said the Swedish professor Victor Svanberg in 1963 as he presented Linna with the Nordic Council’s literary prize. But is Linna’s work tied to its time to the extent that it will die now that he is dead, and that the epoch, in which he played so strong a part, is passing? More…

Coming up next week…

7 May 2010 | This 'n' that

Helvi Juvonen (1950s). Photo: WSOY

‘…A strange tapir / (the bi-coloured one) / a wondrous tapir (the many-toed one) / circles the tree, goes round and about, / a small word hangs from the tip of his snout….’

Helvi Juvonen (1919–1959) wrote nature-inspired poetry; she was a fan of the 19th-century American poet Emily Dickinson, whose work she also translated. Her short adult life, in the drab Helsinki of the post-war years, was burdened by poverty and illness, and yet she wished to ‘toast the richness of our lives’.

The literary scholar Emily Jeremiah has translated a handful of Juvonen’s poems and takes a look at her work in this, the 15th part of a series devoted to classic Finnish authors (also available in our archive are essays about Kirsi Kunnas, Henry Parland and Sirkka Turkka). Helvi Juvonen: small words celebrate ‘the richness of our lives’

Hamlet in blue velvet

22 January 2010 | Fiction, poetry

Physical, mythical, sensual, playful: Sirkka Turkka’s poems, never abstract, speak of life, death, dogs, horses, nature and humans. In her universe the humorous and the grave socialise without effort. These texts, in prose form, with Hamlet as one of the characters, are often set in a wintry landscape (see Nature girl)

Poems from Yö aukeaa kuin vilja (‘The night opens like corn’, Tammi, 1978)

Of his early childhood, Hamlet really only remembered his father’s slightly crooked and gnarled index finger, pointing at the lowest branch of a holly oak. A small owl sat on it. It can’t see anything, it’s asleep now. It won’t fly off until night. These were the only words Hamlet remembered his father saying to him during the first six years of his life. Later, all he saw of his father was his back, bent over in study of agricultural conditions in a village called Jawohl or of waterside traffic on the river Vistula at the turn of a particular century. When it came to governmental matters, the king placed his trust chiefly in his unconscious and in wheat bread, thick white slices of which he devoured from the moment he awoke. More…

Translation prize

27 August 2010 | In the news

Rami Saari. Photo: Charlotta Boucht

This year the Finnish Government Prize for Translation of Finnish Literature – worth € 10,000 – was awarded to the poet, translator, linguist and literary critic Rami Saari who translates into Hebrew.

Saari (born 1963) has studied and taught Hebrew, Semitic languages and Finno-Ugric Language Studies at universities in Helsinki, Budapest and Jerusalem. He has been the editor of the Israeli section of the international poetry website since 2002 and has edited a book series for Ha-kibbutz hameuchad which publishes predominantly Nordic and Baltic literature.

Saari, who has also published seven collections of his own poetry, now lives in Athens. He has also translated Albanian, Spanish, Catalan, Greek, Portuguese, Hungarian and Estonian fiction.

Among the Finnish writers Saari has translated are Daniel Katz, Eeva Kilpi, Eino Leino, Veijo Meri, Timo K. Mukka, Sofi Oksanen, Arto Paasilinna, Raija Siekkinen, Eeva Tikka, Sirkka Turkka and Mika Waltari.

Rami Saari received his award in Helsinki on 25 August from the minister of culture and sports, Stefan Wallin. The prize has been awarded by the Ministry of Education and Culture since 1975 on the basis of a recommendation from FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange.

Hay-smelling heart

30 September 2001 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

In Eva-Stina Byggmästar’s poetry, everything is different, She writes highly original poetry whose harmony, breathing rhythm and naïvist imagery, rooted in the rural environment and nature, lodge in the mind immediately at first reading.

Byggmästar (born 1967) published her first collection I glasskärvornas rike (‘In the kingdom of glass-splinters’) at the age of nineteen, in 1986; her best-known works are För upp en svan (‘Put to flight a swan’, 1992), Framåt i blått (‘Forward in blue’, 1994) and Bo under ko (‘Live under co’’, 1997; Söderströms), known as the Joy trilogy. She has received a number of prizes in both Finland and Sweden, and a long-awaited translation of her selected poetry is to appear in Finnish in 2002.

Her eighth collection of poetry, Den harhjärtade människan (‘Hare-heart’, 2001), marks a distinct change of tone compared to the Joy trilogy. The speaker of the poems, a childish joker and cultivator of language, wanders through a subterranean forest of tears grieving over what is lost. Finally she withdraws from human company into the midst of nature and allows her wounded heart to change into a hare. More…

Our favourite things

29 January 2010 | Letter from the Editors

Every reader has his or her favourite book. It is possible to define, with acceptable criteria, when a work of fiction is ‘a good novel’: do the plot, characterisation and language work, does it have anything to say? But when is a ‘good’ novel better than another ‘good’ novel? More…