Search results for "pentti saarikoski"

A sensitive pessimist

30 December 2000 | Authors, Reviews

Pentti Saaritsa

Photo: Irmeli Jung

When we arrive in Oaxaca, we find a Sapotek culture pulsing with quiet wisdom, a people who, even in their appalling poverty, have preserved their joy in life, mezcal bars which threaten to overturn our blameless work schedules, and the house rented by the Finnish Writers’ Union, where the rooms we are shown to as are empty and unfurnished as the solitary confinement cells in the central jail.

But Pentti Saaritsa has the language skill and, more essentially, the art of relating to people as though he has been lifelong friends with the whole of humanity. During the first week, we explore the squares, markets and furniture stores of Oaxaca. Ritsa haggles with astonishing perseverance, with the result that, in the second week, we are the proud owners of two genuine Mexican desks, stools and standard lamps. But the typewriter takes up an entire chapter in Pentti Saaritsa’s autobiography. Untiringly, he finally reaches the price he wants. And so we settle in a town turned upside down by the Zapatista movement: ‘The Mexican typewriter has / its own handwriting: with letters that bounce / off the lines it continues / the story of my life….’ More…

In memoriam Anselm Hollo 1934–2013

1 February 2013 | In the news

Anselm Hollo. Photo: Gloria Graham; taken at the video taping of Add-Verse, 2005. (Wikipedia)

Anselm Hollo. Photo: Gloria Graham; taken during the video taping of Add-Verse, 2005. (Wikipedia)

Poet and translator Anselm Hollo died in Boulder, Colorado, on 29 January, at the age of 78. His father, Professor J.A. Hollo, translated literature from 14 languages. Anselm, born in Helsinki in 1934, worked with languages all his life, translating from Finnish, English, German, Swedish and French.

In the 1950s he lived in Germany and Austria, and then moved to England to work for the BBC. He published his first collection of poems, Sateiden välillä (‘Between rains ’), in Finnish in 1956. He once said that as a poet he ‘makes things in and out of language’.

In the late 1960s Anselm moved to the United States, where he was to write more than 30 books in English. He was a Professor of Writing and Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, where he lived with his second wife, the visual artist Jane Dalrymple-Hollo. His own poetry is influenced by the 1950s and 1960s Beat Generation, among whom he had several personal friends; he translated Allen Ginsberg and Robert Creeley into Finnish – as well as the two books of poetry by John Lennon.

His last work remains Guests of Space (Coffee House Press, 2007). Notes on the Possibilities and Attractions of Existence: New and Selected Poems 1965–2000 received the San Francisco Poetry Center’s Book Award for 2001. His collection Corvus (2002) was also published in Finland, translated by Kai Nieminen. Among the many literary prizes he received was the Finnish Government Prize for the Translation of Finnish Literature in 1996.

Among his best-known translations of Finnish poetry are poems by Pentti Saarikoski (1937–1983) and Paavo Haavikko (1931–2008), whose work he also translated into German. For many years he served as a member of the literary advisory board of Books from Finland, and translated new work by, for example, Lassi Nummi, Jarkko Laine, Rosa Liksom, Leena Krohn and Riina Katajavuori.

During Anselm and Jane’s visits to Finland it was always enjoyable to talk about literature, art, new books and translation over a glass of wine. Anselm rarely, if ever, said no to requests to translate something: he remained sincerely interested in his native language and the ways it was used for creating fiction. We miss a jovial friend and an exceptionally skilful man of letters.


i.m. Hannes Hollo, 1959–1999

by Anselm Hollo
(Hannes Hollo was his son from the first marriage with poet Josephine Clare)

Fought the hungry ghosts here on Earth
‘What is man?’ asked the King
Alcuin’s reply: ‘A guest of space.’ And time yes time:
The past lies before us, the future comes up from behind
Walking on Primrose Hill or Isle of Wight beaches
Iowa City streets scrambling up snow-covered deer track
To Doc Holliday’s grave in Glenwood Springs
His helmet now shall make a hive for bees
He fought the hungry ghosts here on Earth
Strong & resourceful on his best days,
Patient kind and presente
Returning those with him to here & now
But just as we settle in with our Pepsi and popcorn
THE END rolls up too soon always too soon



(Anselm reads the poem here)

Simple things

30 June 1998 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Among the poetry published in Finland in 1997, Jyrki Kiiskinen identifies four voices that continue to reverberate long after their books are put down. Markku Paasonen is one of the four poets he discusses

‘I did not choose the cause, the cause chose me,’ wrote Pentti Saarikoski in the Sixties, when he thought he had found his life’s purpose in communism. Thirty years later, Markku Paasonen in his first collection Aurinkopunos (‘Sunweave’) writes: ‘I did not choose; the sea but the sea chose.’ More…

A poet’s perspective

31 December 1986 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Aila Meriluoto. Photo: Pertti Nisonen

Aila Meriluoto. Photo: Pertti Nisonen

When Aila Meriluoto burst on to the world of Finnish poetry 40 years ago in the autumn of 1946 she was at once hailed as a youthful prodigy. Praised lavishly by the leading critics, the 22-year-old poet’s first collection, Lasimaalaus, sold in phenomenal numbers: in a couple of years it went through eight editions, or 25,000 copies, which in Finland is still a record figure. Today total sales are well over 30,000.

Two poems attracted particular attention. One was Kivinen Jumala (‘God of stone’), a poem of defiance unleashed by the experience of wartime bombing, in which God is portrayed as having changed into a stone statue, and people as having hardened correspondingly. It was the first reaction of the younger generation to the war – abusive, strong and inevitable, the proclamation of the death of the kind, just God.

The other central poem of the collection was Lasimaalaus (‘Stained glass’) from which the collection took its name: a taut post-symbolist vision and a dazzling synthesis of the oneness of the world. Baudelaire, master of correspondances, might well have been satisfied with it. More…

And yet, after decades

30 June 1997 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

If Mirkka Rekola had received the recognition she deserved in the 1960s, and not only gradually during the 1980s, the history of Finnish poetry would look different. She is among our central modernists.

Rekola has been trampled underfoot twice by the politics of the literary world. In the 1950s she unknowingly chose the wrong publisher, the conservative Werner Söderström, when the avant garde were on Otava’s list. In 1962, with the increasing politicisation of literature, the cult figure of the younger generation, Pentti Saarikoski, attacked Rekola, considering her an example of the poetry that was to be discarded. More…

Jarl Hellemann in memoriam 1920–2010

15 March 2010 | In the news

Jarl Hellemann 1920–2010. Photo: Pertti Nisonen (2009)

One of the grand old men of Finnish publishing, Jarl Hellemann, wrote in one of his own books: ‘Book publishing is by nature personified, a personal activity.

‘Most of the world’s old publishing houses still bear their founders’ names: Bonnier, Collins, Heinemann, Harper, Knopf, Bertelsmann, Werner Söderström, Gummerus. Americans ignorant of the exceptions to this rule among Finnish publishers still occasionally begin their letters, “Dear Mr Otava” or “Dear Mr Tammi”.’ (From Kustantajan näkökulma, ‘A publisher’s point of view’, Otava, published in Books from Finland 3/1999)

Hellemann himself was Mr Tammi for a long time; he started as a publishing editor at Tammi Publishing Company in 1945 and retired as managing director in 1982.

In 1955 he founded Keltainen kirjasto, the ‘Yellow Library’, an imprint of novels published since the First World War by prominent writers from all over the world. The first was Too Late the Phalarope by Alan Paton, the latest – published in 2009 – was The Disappeared by Kim Echlin. The series now contains more than 400 works, among them novels by 24 Nobel prize-winners.

Among the books in Keltainen kirjasto (list, in Finnish), Hellemann’s favourite was James Joyce’s Ulysses, translated by the poet and author Pentti Saarikoski in 1964. Hellemann continued choosing books for Keltainen kirjasto long after he retired.

Born in Copenhagen, Hellemann moved with his family to his mother’s home country, Finland, in the 1930s. Well-travelled and fluent in many languages, Hellemann himself published a novel (at the age of 25), three books on publishing and, in 1996, his memoirs.

Night city

30 June 1998 | Authors

Stephen Kuusisto

Stephen Kuusisto

The German poet Novalis wrote: ‘Daylight has got limits and hours, but the hegemony of Night penetrates through space and through time.’ In effect he says that the night is always with us, even when the sun is out. The lines always bring me back to Helsinki, the city where night permeates every wall and cobblestone.

I first came to Helsinki as a three-year-old boy, wrapped up in a heavy wool coat. My father, an American Finn, had been invited to the University of Helsinki as a Fulbright scholar. While my father taught courses in political science I practiced and perfected a child’s insomnia and remained energetically awake during hours of the day and night. I lived in a perpetual state of shadow-sleep and never closed my eyes. As a result my emerging brain absorbed Helsinki the way a night-blooming flower takes in the moon. More…

The gender of the soul

14 June 2010 | Drama, Fiction

Scenes from the play Kuningatar K / Queen C

Christina, the Queen
The Queen Mother
Karl Gustav, the Count [Christina’s suitor, the King-to-be]
Descartes, philosopher
The King
Oxenstierna, Per Brahe
A choir of midwives

The play can be performed with six actors (3 female, 3 male). Other ways of dividing the roles are possible. All stage directions may be altered.

1. Prologue
The eels’ court

If eels had a court then a great female eel would sit in the centre and the little males would writhe about like seaweed around the throne. However they would not be envious of the queen, because they would know that if they swam up into rivers and lakes, into fresh waters, they themselves would gradually become females, great and heavy, and would be able to rule and close into their great embrace all the small little gentlemen. They just have to wait.
I don’t know. What I do know is that a great black eel, as thick as a rope, was pulled out of the well last night and the Queen looked at its silver stomach and its thrashing tail, but the eel looked the Queen in the eyes and in the heart and since then she has never been the same. More…

Gospel truths?

31 March 1999 | Authors, Reviews

Lauri Otonkoski

Photo: Irmeli Jung

Lauri Otonkoski (born 1959) has the reputation of being a poet who passes attentively by and always has room for doubt.

He assumes a chatty tone, full of an irony often at his own expense, though his schooling as a music critic has given him a fine ear and the art of producing structures comparable to music.

Otonkoski has published six collections, two of them prizewinning. In 1996 he received the Nuoren taiteen Suomi-palkinto (‘The Finnish Award for Young Artists’), and in 1997 the Finnish Radio Poetry Prize, ‘Dancing Bear’. More…

Coffee with a twist

13 February 2014 | This 'n' that


The Italian food illustrator and artist Gianluca Biscalchin combines authors and coffees in this picture: an amusing quiz for any friend of literature. (We think Beckett is particularly incisive.)

One could try out the same method adapted to Finnish authors; it first comes to mind that there are names that would work the same way as Hemingway here. Pentti Saarikoski, the hard-drinking literary enfant terrible of the 1960s and 1970s (1937–1983), for example.

The comic writer Arto Paasilinna (born 1942; very popular in translation in Italy, by the way), surely, would have a pair of hare’s ears sticking out of his cup (his most-translated novel is Jäniksen vuosi, The year of the hare – L’anno della lepre).

The prolific lyric modernist, playwright and author Paavo Haavikko (1931–2008), would have a leafy tree in his cup, as one of his best collections of poetry is entitled Puut, kaikki heidän vihreytensä (‘The trees, all their green’).

And of course: out of Tove Jansson’s cup a moomintroll or a hemulen would peep out!

Sex, violence and horror, anyone?

20 September 2012 | Letter from the Editors

Gladiatorial entertainment: Mosaic from the Roman villa at Nennig (Germany), 2nd-3rd century AD. Picture: Wikipedia

In our last Letter, ‘Art for art’s sake’, we pondered how the efforts of making art (or design) profitable and exportable result, in public discourse, in the expectation that art (or design) should aid the development of business.

Not a lot is talked about how business can help art.

Art of course, is in essence ‘no use’, art doesn’t exist in order to increase the GDP (although nothing prevents it from doing so, of course).

The Finnish poet-author-translator Pentti Saarikoski (1937–1983) argued that art needs no apologies whatsoever: ‘What’s wrong with “Art for art’s sake”? – any more than bread for bread’s sake?

‘Art is art and bread is bread, and people need both if they are to have a balanced diet.’

Defining what is entertainment is and what is art is not always significant or necessary. The boundaries can be artificial, or superficial. But occasionally one wonders where the makers of ‘entertainment’ think it’s going. Entertainment for entertainment’s sake?

The Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) recently announced a new radio play series. It is, it said, a series that differs stylistically from traditional radio plays; it seeks a new and younger audience. The news item was headlined: ‘The new radio play drips with sex, violence and horror.’ In a television interview the director said that the radio dramaturge who had commissioned the series had described what the (new, younger) listeners should experience: ‘They should feel thrilled and horny all the time.’ More…

Experiments with reality

30 September 1985 | Archives online, Authors

Väinö Kirstinä

Väinö Kirstinä. Photo: SKS Archives

Väino Kirstinä (born 1936) regards himself as a member of the ‘second generation’ of Finnish modernists. His first collection of poems, Lakeus (‘The plain’) was published in 1961, followed two years later by Hitaat auringot (‘Slow suns’) and, the same year, by the work that gained him public recognition, Puhetta (‘Talk’). In 1979 Kirstinä commented on the aims of Puhetta: ‘the work … aimed to break the mould of Finnish modernism in some senses – hermetics, for example. I tried to bring everyday language into poetry – trams and fridges alongside the familiar symbols of mountains, lakes, beaches and birds. My poetry opened up, it developed into a kind of unclean lyricism.’

His interest in words as one of the constituents of poetry is characteristic of Kirstinä’s work, as is his search for the sources of modern poetry, such as the work of Baudelaire, which he has translated into Finnish, and the later tradition of surrealism and dada, which is clearly influential in his extensive collections Luonnollinen tanssi (‘Naturaldance’, 1965) and Pitkän tähtäyksen LSD-suunnitelma (‘Long-term LSD plan’, 1967). More…

The everyday flow

30 June 2006 | Authors, Reviews

Johanna Venho. Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho

Johanna Venho. Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho

Johanna Venho on her own poems

While writing Yhtä juhlaa (‘It’s all a celebration’), my third collection, I was pretty aware of it as a whole. But, generally speaking, the process of writing poetry can’t be fully conscious, or in your control: you can steer it a little, but quite a lot has to be let go. My title shows there’s an irony. It points to the duality of everyday life – and of life in general: both involve celebration and the opposite of celebration.

I’ve played with rhyme – something quite new to me – and reading these poems aloud does, I’ve noticed, work. I’ve recently been having a go at writing song lyrics, too. Something else new is that the collection grows the arc of a story line, and story-telling brings along a fairytale element. More…


30 September 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…

In the backwoods

30 June 2005 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

A solitary writer who spent all his life in the Finnish wilderness, Pentti Haanpää (1905–1955) wrote hundreds of short stories, often using ambitious male characters to shine a satirical beam on Finnish society. Vesa Karonen introduces two of Haanpää’s short stories, ‘The Schoolmaster’s bicycle trip’ and ‘Saikansalo the racing cyclist’ from Heta Rahko korkeassa iässä (‘Heta Rahko at a great age’, Otava, 1947)

Piippola is a village in the precise middle of Finland on a boggy forest terrain, with meagre fields, far out in the wilds. The writer Pentti Haanpää’s parents had emigrated to the United States but returned in 1904; he was born in Piippola in 1905 and lived there until he drowned in a lake during an autumn storm.

Haanpää wrote ten novels and hundreds of short stories about people living surrounded by forest. His stories, often about lumbermen, vagabonds and ‘backwoods philosophers’ blend gloomy primordial backwoods life with satirical comedy and philosophical wisdom. More…