Author: Tarja Roinila

The edge of wordlessness

1 March 2012 | Authors, Reviews

Harri Nordell. Photo: Veikko Somerpuro

The poems of Harri Nordell are a mystery to me. Each time I open one of his books, my reading begins afresh. I have analysed and translated his poems, but the texts have still not become familiar. I have not begun to comprehend them. They always speak to me as if for the first time.

I could not wish for a greater gift from a poem. These poems create a special state of being; I could call it not-knowing or marvelling. I feel I am involved in an unfolding event.

Nordell’s poems open me up, but I am unable to prise them open. I do not want to interpret cryptic expressions, or seek out more explicit meanings for them. I would not wish to write on top of these poems, to mute silence with superfluous words. More…

Sound and meaning

20 January 2012 | Essays, Non-fiction

Harri Nordell’s poem from Huuto ja syntyvä puu (‘Scream and tree being born’, 1996)

Translating poetry is natural, claims Tarja Roinila; it is a continuation of writing it, for works of poetry are not finished, self-sufficient products. But is the translator the servant of the meaning – or of the letter?

I am sitting in a cafe in Mexico City, trying to explain in Spanish what valokupolikiihko, ‘light-cupola-ecstasy’, means. And silmän valokupolikiihko, ‘the light-cupola-ecstasy of the eye’.

I take to praising the boundless ability of the Finnish language to form compound words, to weld pieces together without finalising the relationships between them, never mind establishing a hierarchy: the eye is a light-cupola, the eye is ecstatic about light-cupolas, light creates cupolas, the cupola lets out the light, the eye, in its ecstasy, creates a light-cupola. More…

The forest, everything

31 March 1998 | Authors, Interviews

Lassi Nummi

Lassi Nummi

Lassi Nummi (1928–2012) considered himself a prose-writer who has strayed into poetry. In a career spanning almost half a century and 25 collections of poetry, his preoccupations, and his central metaphors, remained constant: landscape, trees, bushes, blades of grass. Interview (1997) by Tarja Roinila


Now I can see how
each twig is on the bush, each grassblade
       with, all around, the void


My first encounter with the poet Lassi Nummi came with Maisema (‘Landscape’), a novella which appeared in the same year as his first collection of poetry. The experience was startling. The text delineates the building timbers of his subsequent poetry: trees, bushes, blades of grass. Maisema is a dazzlingly modern work, a complete realisation of something Virginia Woolf wrote in the same year, 1925: ‘Let us record the atoms as they fall upon the mind in the order in which they fall, let us trace the pattern, however disconnected and incoherent in appearance, which each sight or incident scores upon the consciousness.’ More…