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✨✍🏾Today’s Poet – 🇫🇮Finland’s Poets (Compilation)🇫🇮✍🏾✨






A Short Anthology Compiled by Leevi Lehto, January 2005



There are many sages, but on the other hand not one

         stupid tree.

After writing the most difficult thing

is reading.



Paavo Haavikko 1967,  translated by Herbet Lomas






Finland: one of the Scandinavian countries, about 5 million inhabitants, capital Helsinki. Two main languages: Finnish and Swedish, spoken by a 6 per cent minotiry. Under Swedish rule up to the Swedish-Russian war in 1808; then an autonomous Russian Grand Dutchy until the country gained independence in 1917, as a byproduct of Russian revolution – and not without a civil war between the rightist “Whites” and a red “People’s Governement”. Two wars against Russia during WWII; after that special relations with the Soviet Union, but retained market economy and parliamentary democracy. Since 1995 a member of European Union, and today best known in the world perhaps for the Nokia phones.


Finnish belongs to the Finno-Ugrian family of languages. Complicated, archaic, and rare: related only to Estonian and, remotedly, to Hungarian. At the same time a young language: the written Finnish as we know it has only been there for some 150 years. The development of Finnish literature has always been strongly conditioned by questions of nationality and nationalism. As in the political history of the country, one can distinguish between alternating literary periods with emphasis either on isolation / unity, or crossroads / melting pot.


About the poems (see also notes on the Authors at the end):


My two hasty translations of the Pre-Modern poetry (especially the Eino Leino poem) are meant as modest experiments in transferring typical Finnish metrics and stress patterns into English. This might become clearer when I read samples of them aloud. Aaro Hellaakoski’s “Dolce far niente” and “Rain” are rare expamples of early experimentation in Finnish poetry.


The Finnish Modernism (unlike the Swedish-Finnish, see Gunnar Björling) is basically a Fifties-Sixties phenomenon. My selection covers the canonical masters, Eeva-Liisa Manner, Tuomas Anhava, Paavo Haavikko, and Pentti Saarikoski, with a slight bias perhaps towards parody, social comment, and questions of poetics and meta-poetics. Kari Aronpuro and Jyrki Pellinen are recognized represantives of a certain second wave Modernism; they have both in their ways radicalized the basic Modernist diction.


For “now”, I give samples from the work of four contemporary poets, quite recent stuff. Note that only Jouni Tossavainen’s pieces are translations. The extract from Hannu Helin’s ctrl alt del integrates many languages, including English – see it as way to get a touch at Finnish, or use it as a basis for translation excercises! Aki Salmela’s and Marko Niemi’s pieces are originally in what looks like English.


Anselm Hollo and Kalevi Lappalainen are two poets of Finnish origins who moved to live in the States.






PRE: 1905/1927


Eino Leino

Aaro Hellaakoski



MODERN: Fifties-Sixties


Tuomas Anhava

Eeva-Liisa Manner

Paavo Haavikko

Pentti Saarikoski

Väinö Kirstinä

Kari Aronpuro

Jyrki Pellinen



POST: 2004


Jouni Tossavainen: From “Broken Current”

Hannu Helin: From ctrl alt del

Aki Salmela: From Word in Progress

Marko Niemi: Searching for Laura





Kalevi Lappalainen

Anselm Hollo



Translators: Martin Allwood, Keith Bosley, Bo Carpelan, Aili and Austin Flint, Hildi Hawkins, Anselm Hollo, Leevi Lehto, Herbert Lomas, Ulla Mäkinen, Aki Salmela, Pekka Virtanen PRE: 1905/1927





The Harp-Of-the-Wind (1905)


Translated by Leevi Lehto (note that the stress wants to fall on the first syllable!)


The others got heart, I got the harp.

They grieved, had fun, me not, me not.

O wretched me, can’t live, nor part:

my heart throbs not, but tingles, and rings!


O dire fate, the hardest lot:

no peace grants the night, the day no less,

no mercy shows time, nor eternity:

just a jeering and tingling heart-less-ness.


My heart is a harp-of-the-wind, of-the-wind,

its strings are a seat for a ceaseless song,

when in night, and in day, alone, alone,

it sounds to the air, ever-shivering.


Here on earth so cursedly familiar

are the yards of the clouds, the huts of the winds.

No brothers nor sisters I ever can have:

As strange is my self, just tingles and rings!


And the winds of the sky their music they play!

Comes the Spring, then the Fall, after summer so short.

One after one,  generations decaese:

just the harp stays back, to tingle, resound.


Lo! the Northern wind! How it storms! How it storms!

Then the Western again, so soothing and warm,

Now the Eastern harsh brings weepings long,

from the tingling, for me, not a fleeting rest.


A window is opened by a virgin cute.

The moon is shining, of gold is her hair.

What is this tingling in night, so mute?

She listens, and listens, her hand to her heart.


She looks back to her lover from time gone by. –

Just the harp-of-the-wind there, nothing more!

No soul does it have, nor sense, oh my!

never weeps it, nor laughs, just tingles and rings!


My country of birth, it will listen too –

wake up one day, and rattle its chains.

Is it time for the freedom, so fair and fine?

No, the harp-of-the wind just tingles and rings.


O bitterest curse, O the cruelest gods:

Being slave, I of freedom keep harping on,

without love, for its praise I sing my song,

being numb, I give rice to the feelings, sense.





The Pike’s Song (1927)


Translated by Leevi Lehto


From his hole so wet and drenching

a pike rose up to tree to sing


when through the greyish net of clouds

first gleam of day was seen

and at the lake the lapping waves

woke up with joyous mean

the pike rose to the spruce’s crone

to take a bite at reddish cone


he may have seen or heard, or smelled

or learned by taste of cone

the dew-wet glory, untold yet

of that morning-hour


opening his

mouth so bony

sidewise moving

the jawbone phony


intoned a hymn

so wild-and-heavy

that birds fell silent


as if overcome by

the waters’ weight

and lonesomeness’

cold embrace.


Dolce far niente (1927)


Translated byKeith Bosley


9 o’clock

evening-lively street

with shining stones

like a colorful tale

your way home under the row of lamps

delightful hurry


sonorous rumble

you get back

silly smile

  from work

of the mannequins

misted smile

     g l e a m i n g  s h o p  w i n d o w s

     t h o u s a n d s  o f   s t r a n g e rs  w a l k i n g




  the street

eyes fill

with light whirling toward your head

white glove


white glove on an outstretched hand


walk safely, weary man

evening     eveningway way

windows windows are shining

thoughts are already tasting sleep

sweet sweet weariness

ardent beauty of the evening

      dolce far niente




Translated by Keith Bosley


Behind the table

the white eye of the window


  r      r      r

     a     a      a

        i      i       i           sounds SOUNDS

          n      n       n           swishes


        in the tight


       on the street

     through the roar

the echo of running steps


  r          r         r          r        r

life              a          a           fades away

                i          i         i       i       i      

 n         n          n         n      n        n

         the stony street

                       sounds      sounds       sounds                             MODERN: Fifties-Sixties






The Stranger


Translated by Bo Carpelan and Martin Allwood


I am a stranger here, I need information

but you speek of the weather,

you write: the trees are blossoming, the wind is resting –

trees are trees, flowers flowers, the wind and rest

takes place from nine at night until six in the morning,

and in spite of the fact that men resemble men and women women,

and woman was made to sweep the home, man the street,

I need a map,

who resembles the other, what follows what,

e.g. mothers resemble each other, children resemble each other,

why do children here follow their mothers:

let the dead bury their death, and bury those who are

living alive

The heads, too, resemble each other, and the bodies,

but here the heads are joined to the body,

I must sort them out

so I won’t lose my way.





From Strontium


Translated by Ulla Mäkinen and Martin Allwood



your world. Imagination has already done it.

The Venus wave circles like a betrothed scorpion round the globe

just a sufficiently hot embrace,

and love, death resembling the tail feathers,

will destroy the rest.

The spores are floating through the air,

the cloud grows more intense and returns.

The cup of heaven is already full:

Nine destructions.

Eight terrors.

And the world wanders on

an empty buoy severed from its anchor

deceived, encircled by railroads, exchanged

for dreams whose core was sick,

heavier than lead.

No world

could stand a burden of such dreams.

How could a hand which loved flowers

give the world such a gift?


Empty hospitals Empty corridors Empty flues lost echoes

Empty mussels Who had glued his house

Empty leaves Empty glued-on letters

Empty clocks Time has left its home

The hours have moved off

all twelve soundless women

They have covered the windows of heaven and earth

they are watching in silence The houses would weep

if their cleft eyes

had the power to see:


The wires are hanging down over streets and roads,

the words have floated away like rainwater,

rails stick out, a streetcar

full of posters executed on a pole,

a bull pierced with the innocent side open.

Boston has floated off to the Japanese

where Warsaw and Viborg and Vienna

raise their sunset towers

there where my city

raises its peacock color

the streets are changing their patterns

in the streets there are poems like children

born out of the morning, playing with verbs


On the merry meadows

the blue-skirted children are no longer

romping rose-fingered

the confidants of the flowers

On the streets

no red hoops are playing

joy brings no news

the pigeons do not kiss

The trees do not bend

their fragrant burden

the wind cannot remember

purl my well

the shadows of the lovers

are not united

in the alleys of memory and oblivion

no one remembers


A tank has come to a stop in the field

The trench of the buttercup is growing

On the roof of the bunker fog-enveloped grass grows

like a lace to the emptiness


And turned around by the air pressure the radioactive families

stagger, empty bones,

a swollen corpse is swimming in the canal with its feet toward the sea,

the fighter fish has gotten himself a wife for his helmet

and is celebrating his wedding with glittering sides


On the dock lies an exhausted daily paper

with open wings

the ink fading:

Holland ist in Not

Holland gibt’s nicht mehr

The corpse has reached its goal

The world has shaken off its illness


The Weltall rises, an enormous bat,

terrible, immeasurable wings,

the armies in its creases, a forest of spears,

fame and honor and religious pestilences.


Welt als Wille und Vorstellung

Die Welt als Wolle die Welt als Hölle und als Verstelltheit

A mammal with a wolf’ s face A huge squealer

tasted all the diseases collected all odors

spreading itself out

coming to the molten magma


And the stolen planet, disposed of by a lottery

between the great armies as earlier between the gods

divests itself of its beauty for the sake of a blind person.

The playing, dancing, singing animals,

the brilliant fishes and eager birds

are dying.


Barren waste. It is snowing on the mountains. The reeds do not



On the other side the stars are turning round.




Translated by Herbert Lomas


They all fell out of my lap:

the garden, the yard, the house, the voices, the rooms,

the child – a swallow and fish in her hand –

fell to the ground

which bore the stones.


I’m an empty room,

around me the cardinal points

and snow-folded trees:

cold, cold, empty.


But on my hand

rises everything I loved –

the yard, the roses, the flowerpot house,


a house like a capsule: quiet seeds

with death and motion in their tissues,


the little well, the little dog, its invisible colla.

The little room, the little windows,

the little, sprightly lace-up shoes

for the heart’s running.

The shoes run from room to room,

from atrium to ventricle,

and the child-fingers build out into the blood

a stone jetty for the rowers of stone.


Dreams like stones

in the deep,

perused, dedicated to death:


And from the windows

waft in tuned birds –

with chucles in their beaks:

drops of Mozart

        zart zart


A Logical Stoy


Translated by Leevi Lehto


Mr. H. said to Miss M.:

– A fruit does not exist.

– You are mad, said Miss M.

– Let’s go to a shop so you’ll see.

They went to a big fruit shop, where there were lots of fruits and nothing but fruits; it was the fruit department of a big vegetable market hall.

– May I have a fruit, said Mr. H.

The shopkeepet gave him an apple.

– I don’t want an apple, I want a fruit.

The shopkeepet gave him a big pear.

– I want a fruit, not a pear.

The shopkeeper blushed from annoyance and brought him a watermelon that was big as a baby’s head.

– I don’t want a watermelon, I want a fruit, said Mr. H. monotonously.

The shopkeeper got fretful and piled before him figs, dates, peaches, oranges, tangerines, lemons, and plums.

– Are you deaf, sir. I don’t want any of those, I want A FRUIT, said Mr H. The shopkeeper looked at him, mute and offended, but the fierce expression in his eyes told: What the hell of a heavenly fruit you are looking for?

– Why are you pining him? whispered Miss M., pulling her friend tentatively at the sleeve.

– Because I hate Plato, whispered Mr. H.

The shopkeeper kept looking, then a restrained impulse took over him and he fell a basketful of grapes on Mr. H.

Frightened, Miss M. run out of the shop. Mr. H. reached her at the street and, groping after the grapes in his hair, said objectively:

– This was a lesson in pure realism. As you can see, a fruit does not exist, and I am not mad.

– I think, said Miss M. with regret, that the shopkeeper’s name was Plato.





From Roads into the Distances


Translated by Herbert Lomas


And I ride through charted lands,

but the fowling hawks are being freed,

and I ride forward crouching,

cape flapping,

riding ahead of the squadrons threatening their king,

across fords and slopes,

hooves drumming under myriadmorphic trees:


I must ride from night into night

swift than the squadron of thought,

squander myself responding to the fullness of days

or throw in my hand.


From Native Soil


Translated by Bo Carpelan and Martin Allwood


When I tell you of the emperor you see him, the emperor, at the centre of this winter,

when I tell you of the emperor you see: it is winter, the emperor is alone,

the emperor, his image which becomes visible at dusk,

the emperor, this image,

dusk falls,

there is rubbish on the hillsides, an eagle’s nest, the dense dryness of the branches,

and the emperor is alone and visible,

he is in his country palace which is cold in the winter,

he is the one you can see  most clearly when dusk is falling, and thought,

the bird, the great horned owl, your blind thought sees the emperor even in the dark.


I have led you astray and you stand before a winter mountain

and through the branches you are trying to see the emperor who does not exist,

when you close your eyes you can see the emperor again in his palace

and the image is clear, the image of this emperor,

and I have led you astary, now open your eyes and do not listen to me,

the power of the empire is in your heart, there it is strong,

the empire rises and falls at the winkling of an eye,

the empire rises and falls, now,

it falls when your eyes are opened.


From “The Finnish Cycle”


Translated by Leevi Lehto


The Prince Speaks


With all due respect this people hangs on tight to the wind.

People standing by the Porvoo gates: how do you do,


Good Finn, good day, I said,

how is the swine? and the chickens? how’s the wife doing?


I’ve taught myself to talk to the people in their own language,

but no people ever talks,


Finnish is no language, it is a way of sitting at one end of a bench with hair over your ears,

long-overdue talks about the rain and the wind, the inherited punch at the table,


sire, that’s the kind of language it is, impossible to speak,

it’s nothing but talk and never ends,


and we’re here on account of our sins now when March turns into Spring,

March is incomprehensibly gentle and turns into Spring,


sire, please say that half-grown talks fit into a bag,

a prince, if prince, is a prince and a poet, eating roast


while making his speech and thisways waggling his cradle, drinking bouillon

and burning his mouth.


An Ad Hoc Toast


Your Majesty, Tsar and Grand Prince, Alexander,

Prince whose virtue is the support of half the world,


O pour, ye Helsinki burgers, some sugar in your red wine

to keep the blood from tasting bitter,


sire, the right way to do justice to the tradition is quite to misunderstand it,

here it happens to be the traditional way,


it arrived here, via Bothnia, your Excellency, please say:

suomalainen, savolainen, pohjalainen, perkele.


Now you know Finnish. I just happen to be on my way to the language of this people

and let me be and let me drink and let me be quiet,


let me play and let me drink and keep singing my songs,

always the dead man’s voice praises the name of this country and this country,


it’s primer being carved in rock on the roadside west of the Kymi River,

and it reads Welcome, Welcome it reads, and


welcome carved in rock is unreason.


From Leaves As Leaves


Translated by Leevi Lehto


Where does the voice come from in us? What’s in the eyes?

Speech flows in the flowing world,

speech flows in the flowing world,

and you have to know almost everything by yourself.


From The Trees, All Threir Green


Translated by Keith Bosley


My grandfather the emperor was, as you know, mad,

wrote poems in the presence of others.

Your want war,

it is available.

You walk with a stiff gait

as soldiers always do, hysterics before an attack.

Hysteria is the sickness which is never cured.

The hysteric is a winner, he never gives in.

There is no point in my speaking. I read the poem:


The fog is so dense that the water cannot be seen from the

        the bridge.

The flowers start to rage

when they are

to die meaninglessly.






From What’s Going On Really?


Translated by Herbert Lomas


This began two years before the wars

in a village that now belongs to the Soviet Union

my sole recollection of the war is the fires they were great

they don’t come like that nowadays

I run to the window at the wail of the fire engine

I was on the move all my childhood

I turned communist

I went into the cemetery and studied the angels

they don’t come like that nowadays –

sella in curuli struma Nonius sedet

I burned books in Alexandria

I played the part of a stone and a flower and built a church

I wrote poems to myself myself the chair went up and down

high-backed ones like that don’t come nowadays

high poetry there is I’m expecting a cheque

    Which is the mistake, the wrong way, or the right, not the Way

    It’s + 2

I live in future times

I read tomorrow’s newspapers

I support Khrushchev carry the owl from room to room

I’m looking for the right place for it, This began


Translated by Anselm Hollo


I live in Helsinki.

Helsinki is the capital of Finland.

It lies by the sea 120 miles west of Leningrad.

Helsinki is an expanding city, and the rents are high.

We sit here surrounded by our woods, backs turned to the giant,

      and stare at his image in a well’s eye. He wears a dark suit,

      white shirt


      silver-gray tie. In his country, everything is

      quite different; there, people walk on or without their heads.

We sit here in the midst of our own woods,

but far away in the West is a land where huge eyes float by the

       shore, and they’re watching us, here.

Helsinki is in the process of reconstruction according to the

       plan made by Alvar Aalto.


Translated by Anselm Hollo


First seek ye the kingdom of pure

practical intellect


shreds of advertisements and headlines

shards of gramophone records feathers


lights shining arcs

the borders are well-lit


when the rush hour comes

and the hour of pile-up

sounds of breaking steel and people are heard in the dark


when the journey is broken, no one is on the right road


Translated by Pekka Virtanen


I love you

like a strange land

boulders and a bridge

like a lonely evening that smells of books

       I walk toward you in the world

beneath the atmosphere

         from the space between two lights

my thought which is sculptured and of you


Translated by Anselm Hollo


parliament has been dissolved

there would be pictures in the morning papers

     President Kekkonen

       looking concerned

Finland shown on the map

      as a darker spot

like a broken eye


I listened to the radio and thought of

one summer morning

      walked through some park

very early

on my way home

stayed up all night

looked at the shrubs and the sun rose

I was making a poem

small green cannon were guarding the sunrise

no people in the street yet

         about the situation in Berlin

right-wingers can’t use these verbs anymore

their trenches are leaking


what is really

      going on?

     the air was warm that morning

it was like standing in a big room looking out


From Walking Wherever


Translated by Anselm Hollo


As I write this, it is August, 1965, and I know

      that my present way of writing is becoming redundant: soon

      I’ll be unskilled again, unable

       to put myself into words, be Oudeis,


I am polytropos, unstable, much-traveled, yet always

Helsinki my city remains in my mind, in good order

       and when I’m gone, it moves

like a tree, and the leaves

of that tree, I watch them moving,

having commerce

  in August

        the sun sets, I see it setting in leaves,

the lights coming on


       Helsinki, in good order, in my mind, and beautiful,

I have written in many ways, taken stances,

almost suffocated in narrow academies, I have known

        so many, read the books, now I am tired and

seek refuge for a while

in cultures where I’m an outsider, go

     to Athens which does no longer exist,

      converse with men who no longer exist,

         seek refuge for a moment, not knowing what to do,

      Oudeis, Odysseus, I am gone

          and return.

I have often thought of past times, I was a little boy, confused,


and then as I stood in front of the dressier, reciting poems,

it was horrifying, all of it: the densest fog

     I was told to call God,

and did I believe in God? was I happy

       there, in the heart of the fog, not seeing a thing?

Helsinki is the model of my Weltanschauung.

Science hasn’t really gotten anywhere, there is no theory

that isn’t a membrane,

       there is much to do, what empire’s agents

are spreading this gas of aphaty?

    much to do,

    the fallout of resignation

pollutes, poisons

  the thousand flowers.

I have learnt Helsinki, have my ways through it, always

in the street,

      always gone,

in other worlds,

    worlds that no longer exist, and worlds

    not here yet,

now no one talks to me

ancient mountains, on their slopes


playing and dancing,

      nothing is superfluous, nothing inevitable,

I came to this:

not the time now to write poems,

            to have conversation,

      not the time to gather with friends

     to drink wine, read poems,

not the time now,

       in my briefcase I carry a bomb, blow up Helsinki,


refrain from nostalgia, beautiful buildings,

       old streets: if the people walking those streets

do not think new thoughts

they are streets no longer,

and should be destroyed.

As I can’t put myself into words, I am Oudeis, not wily,

        not much-travelled; he’s been here

all the time, this spot,

alone, stood in the fog, quietly died,

     shouted this shout, killed with a bow,

   met them, killed them.

Well remember: often I sat in the room next door and watched

 the others

       dancing, circling, what was

my private property, my birthplace,

       home-yard and window – below, the perennial

marigolds, blooming.







Translated by Aki Salmela


    In the window a hand made of imagination arranges roots of a root and a bud of a bud.

    Your heart is in my heart and a jungle of despair.


    Over on a cloud I no longer have telephone, and I sleep well.

    You wear a skirt, I a pair of shiny shoes. Campari and a sunset.

    Spider crawls across the water.

    We, the cannibals, like marzipan, we don’t need a course for rejuvenation so far.

    Temples throb like a blue fishing boat on a sea. A small new island blossoms innocently on the water desert of the sea, it is imperative to love eternally…

     Kisses of the moisture soften the high vaults, the colour of piss… the colour of honey. Meaningless and obscure light, heartbeat of a mountain.


A Story Of An Event






Coltrane*)  (1964)


Translated by Aili and Austin Flint




that put outer space into sacks


the last hour of the day

he studies the assembly line of his daydreams

(when the sky bone

sinks in smouldering steel)

slowly ermerging

disappearing in twitches





         not connected with memories

translucent network of sewers

sterile objects

expressive footwear

    bottles like exotic fish

     behind him a rock quarry

not clothed in sounds of work

he has stood

on the trestle of the foundry rail

  for a sniffly afternoon

           he has stared

at the clefts in a rock

the fan of rails in the deserted railyard


now the wine of dusk floods over him


full of tin angels tin angels


the wind is blowing




   autumn leaves







shelved dining implements




distorted shapes




all afternoon

he has stood


  on the trestle of the foundry rail

now the dusk

                          is flooded with

   tin angels


                  and he rises up in the spirals


of his daydreams

                following a flock


               television antennas

                        traffic signs

burned at the stake

    shrapnel of the perspective of idleness

he stands

on the trestle of the foundry rail

        flood of

    tin angels

     he dreams of

       myriads of

        spark plugs

    hot plates

   shells containers

    vegetables east in brass

     frozen foods

lamp posts


       brake lights



                           fever thermometers


                 under a vomiting moon


he examines the assembly line of his daydreams



                     not conneeted to memories

sterile objects …


behind him a rock quarry

 not clothed in sounds of work





      putting time into sacks


* impulse! mono A-21 Out Of This World





From Kuuskajaskari (1964)


Translated by Herbert Lomas


The depiction of life is not sweet

only blue rooms with one mistress in the cupboard

a blue shining with secreted memories in

and then at the very last one must go back again to day-

light, it means: those songs must be sung again

and there’s nothing else


but I that now am this and that

can speak a sheer lie, it is

nine months south, it’s a place

like a blue cinnabar: and the sea’a yachs-

men are worthy of praise, let times fly up

let songs be raised up, I mean

but then remember how this

would be mirrored by the woman in the cupboard

my cyclorama is not my conception

wise eyelashes from the sky: they flutter down

from above everything and such shadows

always come to the earth

as are seen against the cyclorama everywhere

in all literature of the world


Light is a light substance you can’t gather it

into one basket and, if you could, the

rooms would have to be blue, the lovers would have to be

sorrowful, some like best to walk by the river

banks and others play with French

pistols, but archives have to be able to be everywhere

in castle-dust (but the children sat aside, perhaps in trees,

but if needed there are no children, there’s a sublime sorrow,

the reason we beat time) and Musset, Musset the king

of poets, whom we serve, this is no world

here no goodbyes are said even in a blue room

when friends arrive and the loved one is in the cupboard

alone the winds alone the remains of them I

claim the world is actually a wrong one

this time the king of poets is Corneille!

fires eyes I love the poets of all

times, so that they’d have their names taken away so that

there’d be a castle like a full stop: there’s a big house

that looks into the water that lurches inside a book

a book read, this is a May through all the aeons

and not a single detail has been told

of the most challenging deed of valour




Translated by Herbert Lomas


A tree grew into a bar. It was an oak from altogether elsewhere. The people gathered casually round to look at it: no one laughed at it. They were all creatures of habit and wouldn’t have been surprised even if the tree hadn’t grown there. It pushed all the dishes as it moved, the animals didn’t understand their joy. The joyful animals. And the tree turned into a road, so that all this had to be wiped out. The dishes survived all right. The people survived all right. A man walked across the yard. The man looked doggish, but there was nothing doggy at the other end. What next: the parlour ceiling collapsed into the field and the children died. The event was an event and aroused great sadness, but no sorrow. Since this tree couldn’t apparently do anything whatever, it settled down there and died. That’s the way everything at the roadside and in the bar dies. Since the boy had heard this – that his father had indeed preceded him – or so they prentended. Thus boredom led to everything accidentally coming to a halt in order of seniority. The fact is, the boy didn’t get his wish. The tree alone grew, and grew wrong, as it grew from the roof down to the earth. He left the road – thought the ones who all think alike – they too saw the tree behind the road. Now it so happened that once there was a tree that didn’t sidestep anything. It grew all over the place under the bridges, became a beam, then a railing everywhere. This tree was a proper tree, it kept order of seniority, but didn’t care where it went, it was everywhere, so contrary to what anyone thought it also grew into God, and then it turned green and flowered when it grew old, it was the same tree, it had seen life as it had desired, but now it had failed and it didn’t forget that, later it came out of the north country where settled in middle of the road, because there wasn’t a single bird there.







POST: 2004







From “Broken Current” (Katkovirta)


Translated by Hildi Hawkins


Null point


When darkness strikes

fire, it sets in motion

the time of light


From Europe to Savo

greetings from your road

to our bank


1. Pain spot


a wet, black bough

in white Finland

a monument to lasting beauty *)


From the Varkaus junction

180 kilometres

to Sukeva jail


and the same back again

in the same jail

in another stream


with a pair of grooves as bars

I cannot steer this tin cell

and the oncoming lights blind me


in this dark basket

we descend toward the depths

our rear lights the pain spots of the girl racer


she’s so happy,

Tiina, she steals time from time

she does not die, she has the right to kill


two streams, two rivers of wheels

descend toward the depths

with the broken line of Tuonela**) between them


Styx, Styx, Styx’s,

the gate black and white,

black or white, on or off


the yellow line

calls a halt to

the Morse code of life and death


by stopping I take

receive from the road power

I absorb


the entire landscape’s

round road at the stop

rest in one place


memory and thought

unity of beginning and end

only in my head


the platform of time

I drive off the road of authority

and it is a very strange feeling ***)


8. End point


Simo Leinonen’s memorial tree

three lighted spruces

at the Kuopio junction


on the spruce carpet of the sawdust trail

all the tractor tracks

toward the sky


all the snowy winter

look and bow

in the darkness of this city


your memorial statue is a festival of light

stars stars

and three golden spruces


father, son and the tracks of the tin tractor

relate in astonishment

how such low lamps


can achieve such high velocities


*) ‘Man-Made America’, Yale University Press, 1963

**) The river of Manala, or Hades, in ancient Finnish mythology

***) The astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the Moon





From ctrl alt del



tyhjä taivas

kivi ei molskahda

kumahda ihminen




baro baso batho

niin se on


the only thing

that looks good

on me

is u

radost i mladost

yet to come

hers is the face

milyj nakonets milyj



kopo konio merto

lattean huomautuksen

kaiku sataa

mustetta ohi lensi

lentävä rusetti

esse est perseestä

midnite at noon

relimbrance of things

past revisited

siivet harallaan


taivaan sisälmykset

lutra lutra


ja purgativa







definitely maybe

en la puta vida

la vida es un carnival

kaiken lihan

tie teillä








all wrongs


ordovico viricordo

asno no es

nada ne nado

keuhkot rykii

sataa ainaski

tuhatta velttoo

savuu siks

tihee kuulu

kummalliseen mahtu



jos leivos

niin kynä



tämä ominaisuus

lit lit lit

black fire startin’

sittin’ on tombstone

boozin’ moonshine

‘n jake blues

doggin’ toothin’


tea baggin’

innit wotsit


if wishes

all the tired horses

lankeemuksen edellä

suuret sanat

sokrates syö


puusta pudonnut

laivan jättänyt

mahram bilqisin temppeli


gasellin kaksoset


ja hesbonin lammikot

urbs in horto

usus est tyrannus

tides of darkness


sky fits heaven

but witch grass is safe

word to pitch

a tent upon

eyes cold


eyes cream



an i for an eye

wtf is this


a mind is like

a parachute

it doesn’t work

if it’s not






From Word in Progress (2004)


Ode to Ern Malley


The umbel of markings on the carved time

entangles staircase of rococo evening

introverted obelisk of the pond-lilies


And consolations!

Palms! and trespassing

transposed version blowing this lily 1495,

I a gibbet in curious


Social Process. Sky

he who — white Adonai:

to themselves.


Assert: the caterpillar.




Cage said something. Its nature

parameters more language.

It’s about the courage

but the fact is that nobody is Cagean again.

Cage said something, it highlights the formal

    properties of language

when I started using the work naked.

The good is in ideas. Any form

is poured into such work It’s poured into such

a radical nature. Fluid and the good radical.

Radical and interesting. I just gave you more language

glued to type. Fluid and will. I started using

such a xerox nature. It’s very complicated. My method

very complicated. My the piece, it’s complicated. My

   gave you more

started using the aspects of the piece, it’s very

Cagean again.


The genuine evanescence of life


Stream of words, narration as a frail anguish

of lamentable failure. They stayed

quietly closing our own inferior century. He

talked, it was grotesque;

even our love lives were sitting together

with great seriousness. All attempts fail,


but we must try that old paper

in increasingly grotesque situations. Unquestionably,


it’s worth the great caring, and within the individual

communication lies the mean old paper with great


We were sitting in the impossibility

of establishing the space of destined life.

Time is a quietly closing door.

He’d eternity, his currency and the anguish


of individual with a stream of words.

This is destined to fail. An old door,

frail as communication, and the narration

with it’s sense of loneliness.


Impossibility of quietly closing the genuine


of life; a lamentable door. Alienation as our love.

Within the grotesque century of situations

                     they met again.


All eaters stayed to chat about life





Searching For Laura (2004)


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life of laura ingalls wilder, Little House

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and blues. You’ve heard her music,

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WILDER. The first book, Little House

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you are looking for leisure, good food, art

News. – style. Laura paints tiny art

Olympic Games. – About the

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you are looking for leisure, good food, art

quilt instructor and creator of art

direttamente al contenuto della pagina.

donaldson luke dougherty anne hall

Shop” archives or tune in live

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help us to better organize what we learn

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Wednesday, June 30, 2004. Yesterday

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and creator of art quilts. Learn

LAURA. Where Louisiana is a world

laura. TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2003. Join

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Buy Books Today, Laura Bush -Jewish World

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(Fast Connection). To download

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and hopefully contact others

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so that it looks like a 3rd grade

– style. Laura paints tiny art

This Webquest – Laura Flanders













That Old Sauna High


to make the vapor bath

a frame    three sticks

meet at the top


stretch woollen cloth

take care

the seams are tight


a tent   &   into it

a dish

with red-hot stones


then take some hemp-seed

& creep in


the seed

onto those stones:

at once

great smoke!

“gives off a vapor


by any bath

we have in greece”


410 b.c.

eyes watering

by candlelight

uncle herodotus

penned these instructions


adding “the scythians”

enjoy it so

they howl with pleasure”


getting so clean

all clean   inside



Four Stills From “The Poet”


for Tom Rawfort


the poet, drunk, is seen

composing a poem to the revolutionaries

of the world.


it is to be a long poem


while working on page 9 he realizes

that he is stone cold sober:

he stops, goes back,

reads what he has written

starts crossing out words –

lines – sections –

whole pages.


one line remains,

on page five. it says:


the heroes, their mouths full of


it is not

a very good line. maybe

he only forgot to cross it out.

we cannot

ask him.

he has fallen asleep.




the poet,


addresses his friends


you, my brethen

in the dream:

remember the time fo the night

we have agreed

to light our pipes of peace


remember out pact

be gently mad children

at the appointed hour

paint the blue sign

on your foreheads

knowing each other’s rooms

we can be together


no one must know

our wov not to grow

up in their world




in the morning

the poet looks out

& sees a quiet residential neighbourhood


look at it long enough

         & it won’t go away

talk to it long enough

        & it will yawn

scream at it long enough

  & it will dawn

upon you that rome

      was not overthrown

  in a day




he returns

   to bed:

there is,









Unmasked Beings


you come, present quite here


soon you’ll go between serious and gay

sneaking away and swaying your hand


you are planning to construct a vessel

and donating it


you’ll travel for summer to the country

to subdue ideas and insects


Officially In Dark


I opened the ice-box where a great amount of eyes

stared at me without tears without expression  


I shut the door


In the closet I hung myself

on the wooden hangers

greeted some other friends

who answered without gestures without sounds


In the morning


I stepped up the office stairs

as if nothing ever happens



The Borderline Of Dream And Real


walking-stick philosopher phrase slept under a hyachint edge

a loaf in his hand and a missile in his other dreaming

about quiet days nights when cuckoo is calling into the night

fishes cheated worms out of hooks the rainbow would stay on top

of pines for next summer the hunter would offer lumps of sugar

between his lips to bears larks woul give him a private concert

in the spirit of earth and heaven the apples would swell out of stars

would jump silver grasshoppers ferns would speak up the lilies

and the violets would gleam the cows would eat only four-foil leaves

a postman would bring only love-letters: notes of exlamation

and in all languages I love you






Eino Leino (1878-1926), still the bard of the country, a skilled versifier renown for the musical quality of his diction.


Aaro Hellaakoski (1893-1952) was one of the leading poets of the time of “building the nation” from the declaration of independence to WWII. The poems here are from his famous collection Jääpeili (The Ice Mirror, 1927). In the original, most of “The Pike’s Song” was in gothic type; this way:



Tuomas Anhava (1927-2001) the theorist of the Modernists and the “Literary Pope” of his time, published six volumes of poetry and translated, among others, Ezra Pound.


Eeva-Liisa Manner (1921-1995) after two volumes in a more traditional diction, Manner’s Tämä matka (This Journey, 1956) was one of the great breakthroughs for the Modernist movement. Characterized by a strong “metaphysical” undercurrent, her poetry is at times deadly serious, at times playful and humorous.


Paavo Haavikko (b. 1931) perhaps the leading poet in the Modernist group, winner of the Neustad Prize of Literature in 1983. A conservative pessimist, and something of an eternal dissident of Finnish literary and social life, he likes to write about history, power, money, and the like. He is also a succesful businessman and a publisher.


Pentti Saarikoski (1937-1983) the ruffian of the Modernists. In the Sixties, he was for a short time involved with the Communist Party, even ran for the Parliament. A spokeman for “open” and “engaged” poetry, he also translated Greek classics, published the first translation into Finnish of James Joyce’s Ulysses, and drunk himself dead at an early age (as did Leino). – Incidentally, the statement in his poem that “Helsinki (…) lies by the sea 120 miles west of Leningrad” is not correct. The phrase originates from an English travel guide where the author got miles and kilometers confused.


Väinö Kirstinä (b. 1936) has been called “the Arch-Avantgardist of Finnish poetry”. “Sunset” and “A Story Of An Event” are from his influental Luonnollinen tanssi (A Natural Dance, 1966). Kirstinä has translated Guillaume Baudelaire and André Breton, among others.


Kari Aronpuro (b. 1940) author of  eighteen books of poetry and an important novel-in-collage, Aperitiff: avoin kaupunki (Aperitiff: An Open City, 1964), Aronpuro makes extended use of found and circulated material, shoving an acute and highly original interest in “the life the signs”, as his subject matter might de described.


Jyrki Pellinen (b. 1941) besides being a prolific poet, Pellinen is also a painter and a musician. He is often characterized by citing the title of one of his poetry books, So contrary to anyone. In 2004, Pellinen published a remarkable volume of “three minor novels”, Dostojevskin suomalainen sihteeri (Dostoyevsky’s Finnish Secretary).


Jouni Tossavainen (b. 1963), author of nine books of poetry along with several books of prose, responsible for introducings Finns to the PoetrySlam scene. “Broken Current” is from his Liiketoimintasuunnitelma (A Business Plan, 2004).


Hannu Helin (b. 1944) has published fifteen books of poetry. Ctrl alt del is available as pdf at http://tuli-savu.nihil.fi/poeetat/helin/ctrl_alt_del.pdf. He has made the process of writing his next book public at his blog, http://metukimchalomot.blogspot.com/. For his poetry in English, see http://www.pulvis.net/.


Aki Salmela (b. 1976). Salmela’s first collection of poems, Sanomattomia lehtiä (Untold Leaves, 2004) was shorlisted for the influental Helsingin Sanomat literary prize. In 2004, Salmela also published a volume of translations from John Ashbery, Valveillaoloa (Wakefulness). Word In Progress, a chap-book in English, is available as pdf at http://tuli-savu.nihil.fi/julkaisut/salmela_word_in_progress.pdf.


Marko Niemi (b. 1974) is a translator, poetry engineer, programmer, and editor of Tuli&Savu Net poetry portal at http://tuli-savu.nihil.fi. The sonnet sequence “Searching For Laura” was composed using my Google poem generator (http://www.leevilehto.net/google/google.asp), note how the pieces tend to rhyme. For Marko Niemi’s work in digital poetry, see http://www.cs.helsinki.fi/u/marniemi/etnodada/. Another Finland-based digital poet to follow is Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, see http://textualconjectures.xpressed.org/ and his other blogs listed there.


Anselm Hollo Anselm Hollo was born in Finland, 1934, and published his first books of poetry there. In mid-Sixties he moved to London to work for the BBC, and then to the United States, where he now lives and teaches in Bolder, Colorado. He has translated many Finnish poets into English. The poems here are from Poems-Runoja, a bilingual edition published in Finland in the Sixties.


Kalevi Lappalainen (1940-1988) published eight volumes of poetry, his American carreer starting in 1966 with Outside the alphabet; my selections are from that book, which contains Lappalainen’s own translations of his work in Finnish.  Lappalainen died in a fire accident in Emporia, Kansas.


For more stuff:


A way to measure time. Contemporary Finnish Literature. SKS, Helsinki 1992.


Contemporary Finnish Poetry. Edited and translated by Herbert Lomas. Bloodaxe Books, Newcastle 1991.


Electric Verses at http://www.electricverses.net/sakeet.php?poet=0&poem=0&language=3. Contemporary Finnish poetry mainly from the Nineties, in original and in translations.


Enchanting Beasts. Modern Women Poets of Finland. Edited  and translated by Kirsti Simonsuuri. Forest Books, London & Boston 1990.


Paavo Haavikko: Selected Poems. Translated by Anselm Hollo. Carcanet Press, Manchester  1991


Anselm Hollo: Sojourner Microcosms. New & selected poems 1959-1977 with a Foreword by Robert Creeley & an Afterwords by Edward Dorn. Blue Wind Press, Berkeley 1977.


Eeva-Liisa Manner: Fog Horses. Translated by Ritva Poom. Cross Cultural ommunications, New York 1986.

Eeva-Liisa Manner: Selected Poems. Translated by Herbert Lomas. Making Waves, Guildford 1997.

Modern Scandinavian Poetry. The Panorama of Poetry 1900-1980. General Editor Martin Allwood. Eagleye Books International Persona Press, 1986.

Pentti Saarikoski: Poems 1958-1980. Edited and translated from Finnish by Anselm Hollo. The Toothpaste Press, West Branch, Iowa 1983.


Pentti Saarikoski: Trilogy. Translated from the Finnish by Anselm Hollo. La Alameda Press, New Mexico, 2004


Skating On the Sea. Poetry from Finland. Edited & translated by Keith Bosley. Bloodaxe Books. Finnish Literature Society, Wiltshire 1977.


Snow in May. An Anthology of Finnish Writing 1945-1972. Ed. Richard Dauenhauer and Philip Binham. Associated University Presses, Rutherford 1975.


Thank You for These Illusions: Poems by Finnish Women Writers, transl. and ed. by Anne Fried, Helsinki 1981.




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