Author: Tuula Hökkä

Verse and freedom

16 January 2014 | Articles, Non-fiction


Aale Tynni (1913–1997). Photo: WSOY

Finnish poetic modernism, which with its freedom of rhythm came to dominate the literary mainstream of the 1950s, posed a particular challenge to the poets of the classical metrical and romantic poetic tradition. Aale Tynni (1913–1997) is not a poet of any one school or form, but rhythm is the deepest foundation of her poems, whether expressed in metre, free verse or the speech rhythms that characterise some of her poems of the 1950s and 60s, as well as those of her final years.

An Ingrian Finn, Tynni left Ingermanland near Petersburg for Finland as a refugee after the First World War, in 1919. The war and the period of uncertainty that followed it are present in her poems as an allegory, sometimes appearing as a dance of death or a carnival. At other times they emerge in the myth of Phaethon, who with his sun chariot is in danger of throwing Mother Earth off her axis, or as a game of chess in which God and the angel Gabriel play with the planets and moons as pieces. The poet makes use of mythic and cosmic references to widen her scope and to portray Man in the stages of history and the present age. More…

A tubby muse

Issue 1/2004 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Eeva-Liisa Manner (1921–1995) is one of the great lyric poets of the second half of the 20th century and a pathfinder for Finnish modernism. Less well-known are her sporadically produced prose works of the 1950s: three novels, a collection of short stories, and stories published in magazines.

Prose was a concomitant of her poetry, where she could try out diverse subjects and stylistic experiments. For the reader, the poet’s prose provides a framework for understanding the poems: it contextualises their background, experience and thinking. In spite of the difference of genre, the style is recognisably from the same hand: sensitive and violent, abruptly montaged, full of intelligent humour and tragedy.

The short-story collection Kävelymusiikkia pienille virtahevoille (‘Passacaglia for small hippopotami’, 1958) created alongside the poetry volume Tämä matka (‘This journey’, 1956) and to some extent performing variations on the same themes and motifs – is subtitled ‘an exercise’. The ‘exercises’ are small, elegant, verbally crafted works of art, mysterious and surprising. One of the aims is ‘the joy of insight’, the workings of the mind; though, as the narrator says, ‘intuition sometimes grant a more unalloyed joy than semi-comprehension’. Looking at the constellations or Sanskrit texts or reading poetry, even without comprehension, the ‘I’ of the stories feels a profound aesthetic pleasure. More…

Silence and the void

Issue 3/1992 | Archives online, Authors

The tragic and the comic, the lyrical and the grotesque, blend seamlessly in the language and characters of Eeva-Liisa Manner‘s Poltettu oranssi (‘Burnt orange’, 1968), a ballad-like, uncompromising drama about the ineluctable destruction of a ‘mad girl’.

The girl’s emotions have been violated since childhood. She has been repeatedly raped, both figuratively and literally, and always in the name of love. Her mind develops its own secret language and logic, beheading people because ‘It is from the face that all bad words and hurtful expressions come.’ When, as part of a psychiatric test, she is shown a cavalcade of portraits of great men, the image of Nietzsche causes loathing to be replaced by a tender whisper: ‘Father. A stupid little dog.’ The exception of Nietzsche, an early interpreter of the modern World and the linguistic crisis of art, is apt. The experience of uncertainty and questioning of the meaning of language, on the one hand as a limitation of life and on the other as the enabler of a full existence, are in many ways central to Manners work. More…