Author: Pentti Saaritsa

Contemplating the cosmos

30 September 2006 | Fiction, poetry

Poems from Valkoiseksi maalattu musta laatikko (‘A black box painted white’, WSOY, 2006). Introduction by Pertti Lassila

Good morning, murmuring universe,
dim tortuous thingamybob
with your moving and unmoving parts,
which every day need
new instructions for use
even though the previous ones
were not all that clear, because the article itself
is perpetually modifying its rules of behaviour.
There are threats that our details are being checked,
exhortations to be good, to wait,
wait and believe,
to stay outside at night
in abstract space
till the next numerical series. More…

A fifth season

30 December 2000 | Fiction, poetry

Poems from Elävän mieli (‘A mind alive’, WSOY, 1999). Introduction by Lauri Otonkoski

In sparser gusts of wind
metaphors sough through the mind,
spinning as on the much-frequented
boulevards of a great park.
Even one’s most private thoughts are as common
as public transport, what a relief,
as shared as our anatomies and our bacteria,
for there is only one thread in the skein of the Norns
and the same fabric is always being woven
from the whims of fate: is that not a relief?
Treacherous individuality suffices only
for a fingerprint.
Metaphors always the same,
but constantly born anew
like a mind alive. More…


Issue 2/1993 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Virtaava seinä (‘Flowing wall’, 1984). First performed by Toimii!, Stockholm, 1984. Introduction by Lauri Otonkoski

Ahead lies a journey
but those who are embarking on it
are fascinated as much
by the finer-than-fine bright wall,
wall flowing like the wind separating what
is not
from what is right now
beginning to be born
from their own movements:

these restless spirits
were born in the same valley
each prepared only by their own story
each with an instrument that is more good will
than any curved or straight wood or metal,
and in this world,
its Western Yard, it is
a little dark
and it is not yet time to decide
whether it is now morning or evening.
Someone is calling, or wakening, some instrument
that is pure suggestion, a cry of departure
or a quiet enticement: ready?
It is accepted, it is answered,
it is like the voice of Reason in the cool air,
and when they all tum to start their journey
before them is rising ground, a whole hill,
a slope and a mountain the size of Europe More…

On Caj Westerberg

Issue 1/1980 | Archives online, Authors

Caj Westerberg

Caj Westerberg. Photo: Pentti Sammallahti

Caj Westerberg established his reputation with the publication, in 1967, of his first volume of poems: Onnellisesti valittaen (‘Cheerful complaint’). The work was immediately praised for its descriptive power and visual imagery. The other outstanding feature – preserved in subsequent works – is the author’s capacity for emotion, for a passionate involvement in human existence, casting the sensitive individual from the crest of ecstasy to the trough of despair. In Westerberg’s next two collections, Runous (‘Poetry’, 1968) and En minä ole ainoa kerta (‘I am not the only one’, 1969), these key features are firmly sustained. At the same time, Westerberg is beginning to extend the mordancy of his themes. In his fourth book, Uponnut Venetsia (‘Sunken Venice’, 1972), the style has became move conversational and laconic, but does not deviate from his main thematic concerns. Westerberg’s work can be seen as a cool, developing continuum: all the poems, whether long or short, whether aphoristic epitomes of experience or pure ‘imagistic’ visions, convey a unified individual response to the world and existence, and a prevailing intensity. With each publication, brought out as all his earlier works by Otava, Westerberg has developed and enhanced his style. His two most recent works, Kallista on ja halvalla menee (‘It comes dear and it’s going cheap’, 1975) and Reviirilaulu ‘Territorial song’, 1978), have all the marks of works which will become classics. Westerberg’s poems are moving and full of surprising associations; he is both sensitive to the present and alive to the past. His style maintains a fine balance between the conversational and the stylized. Westerberg takes the role of the poet seriously. At a recent conference he put it thus: ‘The poet’s fundamental impulse is to reveal the hidden. That is one of his tasks. That is his folly. The poet is the seer, the prophet, the truth-teller.’

Translated by Mary Lomas

On Matti Rossi

Issue 1/1978 | Archives online, Authors

Matti Rossi

Matti Rossi. Photo: SKS archives

The appearance in 1965 of Matti Rossi’s (born 1934) first work in Finnish, Näytelmän henkilöt (‘Dramatis personae’, Tammi), brought him immediate recognition as an important writer. It confirmed him as a skillful translator – he had already ten important translations to his name – and revealed a new but already mature poet. Näytelmän henkilöt contains biting political parody, highly original myth verse and the Finnish version of a series of poems on Vietnamese themes, which he had first published in English.

Rossi has always worked in many styles and genres. Leikkeja kahdelle (‘Games for two’, Tammi, 1966) is a magnificent collection of sensual love poems; his fantasy poem for the stage, Tilaisuus (‘The occasion’, Tammi, 1967), examines the nature and causes of violence; the events in Czechoslovakia are the subject of his analytical political satire Käännekohta (‘Turning-point’), written as a play for television in 1969. These were followed by a long period in which Rossi’s poetry reflects his political commitment to the far left. He brought out a book about his experiences during a visit of more than a year to South America, and his scathing poetry has always played its part in political controversy. He has composed songs for the stage, and an outstanding ballad narrative, Puulintujen vuolija (The carver of wooden birds’, 1975). More…


Issue 3/1976 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Pentti Saaritsa

Pentti Saaritsa playing chess. Photo by Otso Kantokorpi, 2006.

Pentti Saaritsa (born 1941), author of six collections of poetry, is one of Finland’s leading left-wing poets, who writes about a wide range of individual and social themes. An outstanding translator, he has had a major role in making Latin American literature, especially the work of Miguel Angel Asturias and Pablo Neruda, known and admired in Finland. He also translates from Russian. The first five poems below have been taken from his latest collection Tritonus (‘Tritone’, Kirjayhtymä 1976), and the last two from his Syksyn runot (‘Autumn poems’, Kirjayhtymä 1973). His poems have appeared in various anthologies abroad and are now being translated into Swedish, English and French. Pentti Saaritsa is a member of the editiorial board of Books from Finland.



From the bowels of each apartment house
always that one unknown sound is borne.

Sometimes like drily dripping water, sometimes
as a stone might bite a lump out of itself,
Or a child awake in the dark might learn the word hair.

And a tenant listens, makes a note of it
perhaps to punctuate the interrupted writing of his consciousness
when it makes him restless:

What now, again so soon, is it coming from me
or from the dead building.
An alarm-bell. Did anyone else hear? More…