I am writing this post from a warm and colourful studio in Central Finland, sipping tea and eating pumpkin seed bread. This week, on behalf of Cardiff University, I am visiting the University of Jyväskylä to observe seminars, give presentations, teach workshops and learn more about creative writing in Finland. It has been extraordinary so far and I will certainly write a longer post about the experience before the week is up.
For now though, I wanted to share something short on Finnish poetry. Yesterday, I observed a seminar which was taught, mostly, in Finnish. Still, when the students read out their pieces I was asked what I thought about them. One student read a poem with short, clipped lines that moved the piece along at a good pace. She repeated some words (which were later translated to me as ‘I believe’) and I guessed, purely based on the sounds, that the poem was imagery-heavy. The other student used longer lines, suggesting her piece was more narrative. I could hear some alliteration and rhyme. I guessed she was telling a story, which I later learned was true: it was a child-friendly piece about a dragon and his family.
The exercise was interesting for all of us and encouraged the entire class to think more deeply about what poetry has to offer in terms of its sound, rhythm, and beyond-words meaning, even when being read out in a language not spoken by the listener.
This got me thinking: I should read more Finnish poetry. I have never read much before so I have spent the morning researching, reading poems, tracing my fingers along the foreign words. I thought I’d share a few of the pieces I’ve fallen in love with (along with a couple photos of the snow-covered campus). Enjoy or should I say: Nauttia!
Anna että aallot ruoskisivat muurin rikki,
kirkonrotat virtaisivat ruokasaliin,
tapulissa kello kolahtaisi puhki ja kuoripojat
kuin lokit kirkuisivat.
Eikä myrsky tottelisi. Ei vaikenisi.
Jättäisi jälkeensä puhkilyödyn kellon,
rotansyömän rukouskirjan, kompostissa
kukkivan rupisen perunan.
|Let the waves lash and smash down the wall,
that church rats would swarm into the dining hall,
that the bell in the tower would break with a bang and the choirboys
like seagulls would shriek.
And the storm wouldn’t obey. Wouldn’t still.
Would leave a broken bell,
a rat-eaten prayer book, and in the compost
a blossoming scabby potato.
|Nukkumaan käydessä ajattelen:
Huomenna minä lämmitän saunan,
pidän itseäni hyvänä,
kävelytän, uitan, pesen,
kutsun itseni iltateelle,
puhuttelen ystävällisesti ja ihaillen, kehun:
Sinä pieni urhea nainen,
minä luotan sinuun.
|Going to sleep, I think:
tomorrow I will heat up the sauna,
walk, swim, wash,
invite myself to evening tea,
speak to myself in a friendly and admiring way, praising:
You brave little woman,
I believe in you.
|BLI ALDRIG VÄN MED EN KRÅKA
Bli aldrig vän med en kråka!
|NEVER MAKE FRIENDS WITH A CROW
Never make friends with a crow!