Author: Ilpo Tiihonen

Horror on the first line

15 October 2010 | Authors, Essays, Non-fiction, On writing and not writing

Writer's block

In this series, Finnish authors ponder their profession. In his radical youth, the poet and author Ilpo Tiihonen thought blind rage was what fuelled poetry. As he later found it’s a lot more complicated, he began to invent ways of loosening literary tension

When I was a little more than 20, when I thought I had completed the manuscript of my first volume of poems, everything was going to hell.

I wanted life to be political, exotic, inspired, but the Finnish way of life, with its instructions and its home loans crushed people into a stiff and monopositional way of being. One of submission. I protested. We made an underground magazine whose cover showed Nixon peeing on South America. We founded a propaganda theatre which raged against the colonels’ junta in Greece. And there was plenty to vilify about the Finnish bourgeoisie, too. I hated capitalism, TV advertisements and the high prices of bus tickets. And there was no hot water in my rented digs. The main thing was to protest. More…

On the waves of our skin

4 December 2009 | Fiction, poetry

The poems in Ilpo Tiihonen’s new collection, Jumalan sumu (‘God’s mist’) – about fakirs, beggars, poets, lovers and life – are tinged with a gentle sense of the ephemerality of human life (see Gatecrashing the universe)

Poems from Jumalan sumu (‘God’s mist’, WSOY, 2009)


These mornings when beggars
station themselves at church doors
and a little grace slips through
the fingers of some of us,
it seems for a moment good

That crows are flying about
and princes’ bones are clattering in huge sarcophagi

And now, with a basic shape planned
for the daily bread,

Early morning wakes up in Florence
with black flour in its fingernails 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…

Troubled by joy?

30 September 1998 | Fiction, poetry

Poems from Boxtrot (WSOY, 1998)

Nine lives

So far nine lives only, and
all mine, like my head in my hands.
My first was curled up at the foot of a fir tree
in the autumn forest just at day-dawn
in nighttime's raindrops.
The resin's still in my fingernails.
My second was the scent of split wood by the shed,
and the circular-saw blade's horrific disc.
The gruel, track shoes too large, and President Kekkonen,
ink spreading across my notebook, and
the clank of the railway under my dreams.
Mayday's red flags, the neighbour's daughter
naked, and dead pigeons lying on the gravel.
My third life was the discovery of anger, blind rage
turning and turning me in its leather bag,
wearing the edges of my day down. Sitting at our schooldesks
being forced towards a goal that can't be named.
Seeing how they start drinking, drinking
into their eyes that black impotent rebellion.
I'm on the point of drowning, someone's traversing
the Atlantic in a reed boat. And if I did die,
it wouldn't matter who sneered. The stars in the sky
                     are watching us in horror.


Street-corner man

Issue 1/1997 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

In the first part of a series on writers and their inspirations, the poet Ilpo Tiihonen writes about his early hero, the poet Arvo Turtiainen

My first concrete encounter with the poet Arvo Turtiainen, the kind of encounter where the poem comes alive and declares itself to be electricity, sound, flesh, part of the atmosphere, took place at Christmas 1967. The poet’s work Hyvää joulua (‘Merry Christmas’) had just been published. My parents received it as a present from my big sister’s boyfriend, then a strict radical. There is a slight sense of apology about the greeting the giver scrawled in the book: ‘This is not a Christmas Present, not a protest, but an opinion.’ For my parents, low-ranking civil servants who had been through the war and embraced middle-class values, Turtiainen did not really exist, preferably not, at least. With a sotto voce cough the book, unread naturally, was slipped on the dark side of the bookshelf, whence I was welcome to take it as far as possible from the living-room.


Dread and happiness

Issue 1/1993 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

A selection of poems. Introduction by Herbert Lomas


He stands at the edge of the market,
not much to look at himself,
with a stare:
across the black dome a shooting star
draws its portrait – and is not there.

His bag weighs on him heavy –
a hard day's 
skychart inside.
He fumbles for... a formula –
some old saw, or a soaring phrase –
     to lay the moment wide.

He’s nailed fast to the world,
but before he goes away –
what did he come here to say? More…


Issue 4/1984 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Ilpo Tiihonen. Photo: Irmeli Jung

Ilpo Tiihonen. Photo: Irmeli Jung

Poems from From Eroikka (‘Eroica’, 1982). Introduction by Pertti Lassila

Ilpo Tiihonen (born 1950) published his first collection of poetry in 1975. From the beginning, his poems have been couched in the language of the street, and he uses slang liberally. Tiihonen has always been opposed to the miniature idylls of nature that were so characteristic of the 1970s. He aims at the secularisation of poetry, and he uses humour and comedy as a counterweight to high culture. He has evidently been influenced in his technique by Mayakovsky and Yesenin, to whom he often refers in his poems. His preferences in the poetic tradition are apparent in the fresh and liberal new interpretations of poems by Gustav Fröding contained in his collection Eroikka. Unusually for a contemporary Finnish poet, Tiihonen makes extensive use of rhyme. The result is often strongly lyrical poems that could almost be called modern broadsheet ballads, and may also bring Brecht to mind. More…