Author: Claes Andersson

The personal and the political

12 May 2009 | Fiction, poetry

In his new collection, Claes Andersson (born 1937) – poet, pianist and politician – takes a look at what human existence is about: excess, apathy, greed, devotion, freedom, and the simple pleasures of everyday life (see the introduction)

Poems from Lust (‘Desire’, Söderströms, 2008), translated by David McDuff and David Hackston
A Finnish translation, by Jyrki Kiiskinen, is entitled Ajan meno (WSOY, 2008)


Despite the prognoses of the Earth's imminent warming
today April 8 it is cold enough to make one’s teeth chatter

In a few weeks I will turn seventy, my ninth grandchild
  August (Siiri's younger brother)
was born two months ago and the tenth is on the way


Subterranean, pre-verbal

Issue 1/2007 | Archives online, Essays, On writing and not writing

Writer's block

Claes Andersson, poet and psychiatrist, ponders the difficulties of writing, and how to get down to it. These are extracts from the collection of articles, Luova mieli. Kirjoittamisen vimma ja vastus (‘The creative mind. The rage and burden of writing’, Kirjapaja, 2002)

Some subjects or ideas need years on the back burner before they submit to being written about. The wise writer learns the basic rule ofthe good midwife: don’t panic, don’t force, wait, and help when the time for birth is at hand, but know also when a Caesarean section is advisable or even necessary. More…

On the uselessness of poetry

Issue 3/2002 | Archives online, Authors, Essays

Poetry has become a habit, or a dependency, a bit like a long marriage, or the habit of doing the football pools, or of getting involved in jazz.

I began my career as a writer in the autumn of 1962 with a slim volume of poetry, Ventil (‘Valve’). Ever since then I have written and read poetry continuously. Over a period of forty years I have published about twenty collections.

Since for most of that time I have also had other jobs, either as a psychiatrist or as a politician (from 1987 to 1999 I was a member of Parliament, from 1990 to 1998 leader of the newly founded Vasemmistoliitto [Left Alliance] and from 1995 to 1999 Minister of Culture in Paavo Lipponen’s five-party government), my writing of poems has often been concentrated on summer holidays and weekends. So it’s often summer in my poems. More…

Selling to the lowest bidder

Issue 3/2002 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Dessa underbara stränder, förbi glidande (‘These wonderful shores, gliding by’, Söderströms, 2001). Introduction by Claes Andersson

We don’t have our whole life ahead of us.
Talk about your experience.
About the sensual, about giddiness and falling, about the time
            you were out of your mind.
I bow down, I proceed by trial and error.
Wait. Time is short.
I begin with light, light that’s autumnal sky-high
When I painted I saw nothing but the light.
Within the light: the invisible creating that hallowed
            feeling under a tree.
Each tree holds the light in its arms like a
            child or a lover.
Birds ruffled with light, breeding inside
            the tree’s head.
The touch of light’s wind on the tree is like
            a caress on the skin.
Birds that are everywhere, no one ever catches sight of them
            but sees them all the time.


A drinking life

Issue 2/2001 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

The poet Pentti Saarikoski (1937-1983) was of the old school of Finnish writers: he could not, he said, write – or live without alcohol. Despite the booze, this enfant terrible of the free-living 1960s remained an unparallelled virtuoso of the Finnish language. Introduction by the poet, psychiatrist and politician Claes Andersson

In the autumn of 1968 I was working as a doctor at Helsinki’s Hesperia Hospital, in the intensive care ward, where people who had tried to take their own lives, or had remained lying outside, while drunk, in the very cold autumn and winter were taken. I was told that the writer Pentti Saarikoski had been admitted to a neurological ward in a very bad state. I met him several times in the hospital café. He was thin as a skeleton, but otherwise in good spirits and seemed almost happy. What surprised me was that he quite obviously thrived in the role of psychiatric patient and that he submitted to the hospital’s regulations without a murmur. More…

I am a happy person

Issue 1/1997 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from En lycklig mänska (‘A happy person’, Söderströms, 1996). Introduction by Rika Lesser

Why shouldn't Johann Sebastian Bach be good enough
      even in this my 59th summer.
I contemplate the apple tree in the middle of the field. 
The continuo branches out just above the earth into four
      trunks, which, in turn, divide
into arms more slender, where the fruits ripen.
The foliage patterns the sky, hands plait the voices
      into a basket.
Under the earth, where the roots rehearse, I wait for
      the succulent, faintly sour fruit.

*  More...

The dance of the living

Issue 2/1994 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

From Dikter från havets botten (‘Poems from the bottom of the sea’, Söderström & Co, 1993)

Who was he that lived my life and now
is some Other? Who was the little boy
asking questions? Who the teenager asking
who the little boy was? The yellowing photo
remains, and the hand holding the photo. The photograph,
the hand, the image of the boy, the hand’s image. More…

The skin at its thinnest

Issue 1/1992 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Huden där den är som tunnast (‘The skin where it is at its thinnest’, Schildts, 1991)

Just now I find myself where I most of all 
	want to be.
Just now the view is the one I most want to look at.
She who is sleeping in my bed is the one I most want to 
	sleep with.
This sandwich tastes better than all other sandwiches. 
The grass on our side of the fence is greener than on
	the other side.
This summer is more beautiful than all the summers of childhood. 
The illnesses I suffer from suit me better than
	all other illnesses.
My loss is greater than any other I have encountered. 
I would not trade my face in the mirror for all
	the mirrors in the world.


Between Eros and Thanatos

Issue 3/1989 | Archives online, Authors

Tua Forsström’s poetry is deeply disturbing. Inside her clairvoyant linguistic structures there appear realities and visions that like icons establish a strong and direct link with visions, perceptions, memories, desires and dreams which I myself recognise but which are concealed. Reading her becomes a crossing of borders: I have been in this room before! This reality filled with ambivalence and antagonistic forces, this magnetic field between Eros and Thanatos touches me to the marrow of my experience! More…


Issue 1/1983 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Claes Andresson

Claes Andersson. Photo: Johan Bargum.

Claes Andersson (born 1937) became, during the 1960s, one of the few authors to free themselves from the modernist tradition so firmly established in Finland-Swedish writing in the 1920s to create poetry of a more distinctly personal kind. Claes Andersson’s poems are coloured by his training as a psychiatrist; he uses technical language in which scientific terms are exploited as an expressive device. His work also sometimes contains black humour and an ironical element calculated to shock the reader; they reflect the contrast between the dream of beauty and love and the grim reality of evil . To date, Andersson has published eleven collections of poems and a considerable number of plays for the stage, cabaret and radio. He has also written three novels, the latest of which – entitled En människa som börjar likna sin själ (‘The person who began to resemble his soul’) – is to appear in the autumn of 1983. For an introduction to Claes Andersson’s work, see Thomas Warburton’s article in Books from Finland 3/1979. Claes Andersson’s poems have recently appeared in translation in Poetry East, Seneca Review, Scandinavian Review and Grand Street.


My love, the moments I spend
in your cunt I forget my
migraine aching joints drinking problem grand mal paralysis
hallucinations pain between the shoulderblades short-
ness of breath hiccoughs dandruff dry skin vertigo bedwetting
impaired hearing chafed lips pustules liver
spots leg sores bleeding gums flatulence
sciatica crying fits thoughts of suicide swol-
len ankles pathological thirst Angst baldness double
vision facial twinges difficulty concentrating
cross eyes burning in the urethra running ears ring­
ing ears cramps throat pain itching allergies
strange subcutaneous lumps cold hands nail-
biting hoarseness obesity jealousy vomiting
constipation sleeplessness noctural crying fits
failing memory pus in each nasal sinus and gout.

From Rumskamrater (‘Roommates’), 1974)



Issue 3/1979 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Introduction by Thomas Warburton


What about going up into the birch tree together
so high till it bends with our weight
and we’re thrown, two seeds on one dandelion chute
down into the lake and its quaking looking glass
There we wash around together without
a stitch on our feelings
We let ourselves sink down to the lakefloor and set up
house there for a time
Among the fakirs the watercolourists and the alcoholics
we can hear the water sprite fluting, all out of tune
like a gipsy band gone down with the ship. More…