Friday, 22 April 2011

The Chromatic Levels

or An Introduction to the Breaking of Captive Form

by Eeva-Liisa Manner

[N.B. words and phrases that occur in English in the original Finnish text are marked in italics]

I open the door, it is an ordinary wooden door
stone pine coloured by the sun
I open the door like a valve
I come from a cool room
into another cool room
here it is the hallway
one hallway in the universe
not a place but a space
there is no one there
it is an empty space hollowed out of absence
I forgot something
I open the door (like a valve)
I go back in
fetch the newspaper
it’s today’s paper
full of yesterday’s news
I turn the page
on the paper square
there is a public meeting
mouths frozen around a cry
In the room there are people
who do not come and do not go
but are always there
lonely with printer’s ink
They have been arrested
in the midst of a sentence
on a flat expanse
a page of La Tarde
I walk through the sentence
through the life of the room
A room as white
as if it had been carved in chalk
I enter the yard
I see the life of the yard but do not feel it
between me and the yard
there is an impression of glass
it moves slightly all the time
as if I were walking through glass
behind the glass a grasshopper grinds its wings
I register it do not feel it
behind the glass a cat is searching for its kittens
criatura estética domestica
from habit of thought but I
do not feel it
it is none of these, it is
The cat meows
my ear receives the message
but the message’s impressive authenticity
makes no impact on me now
My ear receives it out of habit
but in reality my ear is dead
Every definition is wrong
sound is ungraspable
my ear is not dead, it is asleep
as though it had been given a deafening blow If
a creature
criatura estética filosófica
were to whisper: touch me with its voice
what an awakening I would run
square and room in hand I would take
yard & houses in my arms
But no Only the grasshopper grinds
a grasshopper’s thigh
(in the green room its green wing)
and a cat meows and searches
its light-shunning iris yellow as cold resin.
I return to the room
which is an empty space
Absence has hollowed out the room
and me. If
emptiness is the room’s finite gain
then emptiness is my infinite
loss, which I do not even grasp
The one who is absent is ungraspable
his absence is ungraspable
his presence: this is past tense: ungraspable
But I see him
as if he were Present
That conditional is an optimistic present tense
the sense of presence in a state of absence
but an illusion: like the reeds’
Lydian melody, so past.
―͝͝͝͝ ͝   
That broken profile (like the coast of Cornwall)
which is the long-remembered dactyls of the sea,
they rise, fall, slowly, fading into my room
where I sleep like a stranger, alone
(Epi oinopa ponton)

Criatura metafísica trágica
(the immense tragedy in the daydream
of a peasant’s bent back)
But every definition is wrong
not even the essence of tragedy is tragic
when I say that it is tragic, then
I myself am tragic
only I myself. The essence of
tragedy is noble,
and that too is wrong,
the essence of tragedy is noble submission in necessity
(not to necessity but in what is necessary)
Noble submission: the proud choice of the humble:
between sorrow and emptiness it chooses sorrow
And even that is wrong
It chooses both
Only the tragic
can choose both
without engendering compromise.
The solution is ungraspable
because the essence of tragedy is ungraspable
Ungraspable firmness
ungraspable softness
the colours of water and iron.

Because pure grief and pure Nothingness
are one and the same.
Pure being is not the eye of Nothingness
From pure being (grief), I look into Nowhere.
This room is now, left alone,
Also a non-room.
Every deserted space is a part of emptiness
Every part of emptiness is all of emptiness.

I have made this lime-house
out of my own flesh and soul
out of my spirit, like a snail.
A house, first of pure flesh, and now of chalk.
How can it suddenly be so lonely and abandoned
Perhaps I myself am no longer here
There is no real reason
no any single serious reason

and no real evidence, except perhaps
a little muddle here and there
but perhaps it is just a kinetic disturbance of objects
how do I know
The active cause is removed, but the hysteria continues
in objects, in highly sensitive individuals.
It is indeed theoretically possible. But this is a joke.

I always have to explain all and everything
because when I pretend, everything is taken from me,
when I am serious, and very cold, they think, well
aha, she’s a humorist.
But from start to finish there is no humour.
Humour is flight, a refracting mirror for the one
who cannot look straight at phenomena
in a harsh light.
There is no longer any humour in me.
A few word games are not humour, but loneliness.
One plays with words as children play with bricks
the primary game as they study for themselves the possibilities of spatial things.
Devotion to them is loneliness.

Because now I have given up the illusions of the objective world.
Every world is subjective,
everything else is an error of the eye.
Everyone is the centre of reality.
In this world there are billions of
realities, like billiard balls,
stay in your own ball, be your own monad,
close your window, it was blind, too,
that door also opened inwards,
on the gardens of the moon, you are there yourself;
and that too is a mirage.
Continue the study of the eye,
put it in a Faraday cage,
the theme of emptiness is there, if not the core.

I came here full of eyes, but eyeless I shall leave,
Lorca said, and the pen wept, and he also said:
All I want is one hand,
a wounded one, if possible.
All I want is one hand,
though I spend a thousand nights with no bed, alone.

Your eyes will kill me who said that?
If your love is so strong
that you are willing to cross the Styx twice,
you need the golden bough – whose advice was that?
But as soon as that
metal tree breaks into leaf in me,
I will die. It has already begun, the death of my hands.
When I touch objects I do not feel them.
I am already half wood, like fleeing Daphne.

Every word went wrong
as if clay were put in a delicate mosaic.
Every movement was amorphous,
as if my hand were buried.
A bird flew over the house, I did not see it,
but heard the humming of the emptiness.
It has gone, but the path of going
keeps on returning like a fragment of ribbon.
Joy does not come twice,
but its heavy foot is still in me.

So sink back to the cave of shadows
to one or two others with chains around their necks
and watch the reflections on the wall.
Perhaps they will stop some time, and you will see the light of the sea,
thalatta, thalatta,
or start to hear music that does not exist.

Those who were burned by the dream of truth,
knowledge led astray.
Those who were burned by the dream of beauty,
love led astray.
Those who were burned by the dream of freedom,
saw themselves as the splinters of crooked mirrors.
Perhaps there was a ghost of truth there, perhaps even beauty,
but freedom was always something else.

Because man is a relative being: a kind of contract.
I have lost all my relations, all
my contractuality
have stepped out of myself, of my own flesh
(spirit of the snail: small houses and very delicate and sensitive,
extremely emotional flesh)
and arrived Nowhere.
Emptiness is not just a part of me,
I myself am a part of emptiness.

But this is not important. I do not
take myself seriously, I take the Void seriously
It is the subject. I am the verb:
constantly though slowly changing
I inscribe my words on the screen of the Void.
on the empty flesh of the heart of the Void,
the Heideggerian essential emptiness, whose signal is Das Schaudern.
When I examine emptiness in detail,
I see what is around me, if anything.
Perhaps the Void is so porous
that I do not see anything.
Perhaps the Void is so essential
that it does not mean anything else.
Perhaps the Void is being itself.

There is always too much night
covering me.
I do not grasp it.
Only my hand grasps it:
emptiness: feels it,
I feel it with my whole hand
My heart feels it to be infinite
the heart is not exact
yet it is right
My hand feels it
to be precisely the size of a hand
In the room there are 485, 112 hand-breadths More than
512, 148 times intimate
hand-grasped emptiness
is that emptiness which repeats itself in series
it is what makes the room
as the hollow in the pot makes the pot,
as my cavities make me,
the heart’s hallway and ventricle.

All definitions of emptiness
are inverse.
I cannot say what it is, I can only say what it is not.
I cannot describe its essence, I can describe only its effects.
Although emptiness is nothing, not even a space,
it produces spaces.
Although it has no being, it breeds,
because it fills man with his own pain.
Although emptiness is outside all activity
it acts through those whom it deprives.
Emptiness is a dropper
and if you have a poet’s will, it drops you into a poem,
until that will also ceases
and you fall forever,

like a stone that falls
to a depth of 70,000 fathoms

and goes on falling,

because in reality there is no weight and no falling stone.
Only the falling is real.

‘I know that this world exists.
That I am placed in it like my eye in its visual field,’ said Wittgenstein.
But the eye can extend
over the body (as in those who are blind).
As the sex
is not between the legs, so the eye is not
in the head.

When the bomb drops and the city catches fire,
you see the light with the back of your head,
and your limbs also see it.
It all depends on the strength of the light.
In total darkness
your eye is empty.
You can furnish it with any objects you like
and say: this is the world.
The world is a perception for the mind, not of the eye.
My eye is also the world.
Or ear, that winding funnel of flesh,
though its creation needed one age of the world.

The Devil poured small wheels of logic into the world’s ear
and said: now it can hear very well.
Everything is what one wants it to be.
Everything is logical within the framework of my system.
Strict solipsism coincides
with ‘pure realism'.
The whole of the West is asleep in a capsule of solipsism
and speculates in the pure language of science
and meanwhile the East will come to hollow out the flesh of the West
unless by then it has wholly been turned into a language,
a language game.

Many a solid and clear idea begins with ravings,
the determinations of logic.
Their element is fire, swift and dry.
A process of alchemy: Besessenheit, concentration, crystallization, stone,
aquamarine cold as water, hard and clear as that
heart I envy, not achieved by many.

But this is physics.
The manifest life of the soul begins in complexes
and conflicts. When they
relax, you step into a large room
so empty that you could even walk through the walls.
This is the hallway of the final emptiness.
The rate of explosion depends on whether the experience
is pleasant or not, and it is not important,
in any case you are simply here complete and intact,
as intact as you were as a child when everything was indivisible
and objects seemed to seemed to pass through one another
and flow. In this flowing is the mystery
perhaps life itself.
It stops as soon as organization begins
and with it, rigidification. This
organization makes you human,
but the more human you become, the
more of a share you acquire in the general human presence,
the more you lose your share of the common mystery,
call it what you like, some call it God,
but almighty it is certainly not.
For as soon as we organize we lose the mystery
at every moment and break our relation with God.
Therefore all doctrines are unnecessary and they should be shaken off.
All knowledge is so unnecessary that God is now
only in the trees.

Even this explanation of mine is unnecessary
and when I write it here, I simply write it
in order to shake it from myself.
Some vessels fill as life goes by, and finally break,
others grow empty.
The wind digs a well
in the abandoned yard.
My well
is starting to be very empty, the emptiness ever more echoing.
I do not listen to myself.

The father held the church in his hand and from his mouth came a painted phrase:
Noli foras ire. In te redi, in interiore homine habitat veritas.
Poetry, that eidetic science, has many times said the same,
and more ambiguously.
You Yourself are the casket of truth.
Stay in your room, do not go out.
Around the corner, where the wind turns,
great misfortunes await.
-- But does not the air of this room contain the very essence of misfortune?
You can plant oriental flowers in your chamber, and they will die.
We will die of the truth, because we are all
nailed to the cross of doctrine. While that truth
may be a paradox, it does not lead anywhere.

I too was the truth of my dreams
and fragmentary.
Whence this ceramic memory?
And whence its passionate association,
Zauberbruch für die Reise ins Weite:
Only by blowing up your dreams can you blow up your fate.
Sacrifice the most precious thing you have:
the dream, and the step into freedom,
and at once you are in the centre of a much wider reality.
It is empty
but now
I am no longer falling: :the force of gravity is dead
it died at 3 am
The stars of illusion and disillusion set
The Pleiades descended in my mirror.
The burning of one’s heart may start as the burning of a book
on any page at all,
unveil itself leaf by leaf vanish
into an increasingly pure anonymity.

This is scorched-earth tactics.
When you destroy what you believed in,
and surrender it, after the destruction,
the surrender remains, the whole theme of defeat.
You stand on the brink of emptiness unable to see your own shadow any longer:
a waste land, no blade of grass, nor even one of dill
to decorate your hair.
And everything is covered by Thanatos’ cold mantle.

Man does not own
anything here except love and death
and in them he is completely alone
and outside.
From the towers of fate he surveys himself
like a soldier from the terrace of death
his unknown adversary,
a transient guest on earth.

We come here
and collect objects for ourselves
only gradually to abandon them.
In reality they reject us.
All of life is the burning of a book,
Page by page we cease to yearn for what is not,
Page by page we ourselves also cease to exist,
for the dreamer is not more real than his dreams
and reality shuns us.
All matter shuns the other
even when it apparently seeks company:
the counterpart by intertwining with which
it would destroy matter’s routine.
All matter also shuns itself
because it takes the place
that is really emptiness’s own.
Matter appropriates the motions of energy,
they are its own contents,
conjuring tricks of the fight against emptiness,
and thus the endless war of matter and emptiness goes on.
the Void swallows limitless numbers of matter’s troops
and still its hunger is insatiable.
It is never a war of man against man,
emptiness is always greater, and indivisible.
there is nothing but matter and empty space.

The empty house, the abandoned birds’ nests.
How they sang in the spring, the potter- birds!
Where they have gone, is not winter coming here?
The brittle formation of sky and branches is silent,
the trees full of the silence of death.
The leaves will fall, and the lime from the walls.
(Alles ist Sein zum Tode)

As there is calm in the eye of the storm,
so in the eye of the revolving wheel is the core of silence.
I heard the Void transporting clay along the rails,
I never saw the wheels, but I heard the approaching squeal
though it was really silence
so deep that it fractured everything around it.
And now it is here.
As in the first bars of sleep is the glimmer of death
so on the threshold of emptiness is all the Schaudern of defeat.
On the one side the abyss of the horrors and the spirit’s darkness,
on the other a vision of beauty, a land that is made
from carnelian gemstone and rose-cut diamond (which induces sleep)
all illusions
(des ewigen Sinnes ewige Unterhaltung)
truth is emptiness, to which all chaos, beauty and systems return,
worlds blinded by light and darkness
measurable, immeasurable, yet relative,
but emptiness is the Absolute,
the cosmic curtain: the final dimension, against which
everything is a mere reflection.
The screen ruptures when your mind is shaken
and the mystery is pressed against your face
and before you worlds are raised as from a crucible;
the screen heals when life runs away
the arteries violently opening and closing
and you no longer hear its demonic call, its
angelus bell. You open the door like a valve
and you enter the empty hallway;
the threshold brass, in the room the smell of earth,
your home is here.

I too was a reflection,
reflections of a reflection these characters: images,
I made them to pass the time, wrote for writing’s sake, for whom, then,
poem after poem, leaps of ink on the paper’s skin.
Because I do not want to be subservient to anything but language,
defeated to conquer language gradually
until a man comes along the black water and interrupts that task too,
but it is another man.
I said along the ‘black’ water, I meant: unknown,
in which time flows backwards and in whose boats we grow young again.
As I do not want to go back, then you go, songs,
obeying the command: "Always try to stay in the harsh light of Sophocles
and let his good humour wound you."

But my songs were musically stupid
and it was all just a correspondence with the night and the mist
under the Saracen olive trees.
The words go out one by one like little swaying lights
and return to the darkness
the size of fingernails illuminating the night.
The land returns to its ancient form, the words
no longer forge it into matter rising on their wings
the heart turns into bronze and flows back into the night again.
Love makes the words solitary, superfluous,
Love is not a unifier, a steed on the bridge;
not the sun refracted in the ally’s shield
raising the mist from the meadow and showing pastoral images
but not the shepherd or the sea, not the voice of the conch-shell.
Love is a spring that floods inwards
a cave’s echo, a fumbling, the silence of snow,
an ever deeper solitude.

I believed one book
the fine dust of whose verses was shaken from the constellation Lyra:
"This world does not harm those
who walked far on the paths of love."
This world, yes, how could it harm me,
made of fog and rust.

I realized I had always walked only in the chambers of my heart
and always the same journey
from articulated light to the zone of darkness.
Those others, whom I thought were radiant
with the same light, had burnished their copper for others
or else they were just the illusions of my dreams in the forest.

There is no hope of an explanation, I only know
that the arrow of love kills again even though it has been removed.
This phenomenon is one of the body’s strangest experiences:
It includes as a part of its space also that which no longer exists.

Darken my soul heart of the night silence
this world is far too heavy, the sky
so empty now each fragrant bough offered
itself to the wind The roads were full of horrors
under the flowering cherry trees
And yet they were all delusions of the same world
Darken tear the thin mist of consciousness
through which the phenomena glitter and call
and sink back to your home to the grove of shadows
your feet, half earth, probably remember it still.

Here is the end of all the roads in all the world
I haven’t anymore music in me
I have no music
These snippets of language are phrases
not sensory qualities but motor snatches
of, jazz, that noise, so childish and gentle
with which they stimulate to movement, a storm of movement
their limbs that want to go to sleep.
I am not tired, I am indifferent: Void.
There is no more music in me.

[from the collection Fahrenheit 121 (1968)]
Note: English words that occur in the Finnish text are italicized in the translation.

translated from Finnish by David McDuff

Thursday, 21 April 2011

True Finns - 2

Huvfudstadsbladet reports that True Finns leader Timo Soini has accused Sweden's media - in particular the leftwing Aftonbladet newspaper - of distorting Finland's image in the wake of the recent election result which gave the party a marked increase of the national vote. Soinu considers that European media in general have demonized the True Finns, painting the picture of a racist extremist party, and comparing its campaign with the most notorious rhetoric of the 1930s.

Perhaps a more realistic appraisal of the True Finns is provided by the UK-based Open Europe website, which in its blog has gone some way towards clarifying what the True Finns really signify and stand for:
The True Finns party, or Perussuomalaiset in Finnish, has its roots in an anti-incumbency, rural protest movement from the 1950s, leading to the formation of a political party, eventually named the Finnish Rural Party. The party's dissolution in 1995 led to the creation of the True Finns (one of the party's slogans, "Crush the power hold of the old parties", is testament to its heritage). More than anything else, its euroscepticism seems to flow out of this tradition (which also explains its opposition to providing more cash to the temporary eurozone bail-out fund, the EFSF, for more bail-outs - bail-outs which we agree aren't really working).

So clearly, the party has very different roots compared to other Scandinavian populist parties, such as the Sweden Democrats and the Danish People's Party (for Swedish speakers, here's an article breaking it down). The Front National, Geert Wilder's Freedom Party etc are much farther away again from the True Finns.

In other words, the party cannot be described as "far right", as some non-Finnish media insist on so doing. However, it cannot be described as "centre-right" either, as it draws heavily from an old school, social democratic agenda (i.e. high taxes and a big welfare state). Kind of like a social democratic tea party, with a lot of emphasis on national sovereignty and independence.
Additionally, Finnish academic linguist Jaakko Häkkinen has some interesting proposals (pdf) on how the language issue in Finland could be addressed.

Monday, 18 April 2011

True Finns

The ultimate significance of the remarkable gains by the Perussuomaliset (True Finns) party in the Finnish national elections - achieving nearly one fifth of the national vote - is yet to be made clear. But looking at the new situation in general socio-cultural terms rather than purely economic ones, it seems evident that the public mood in Finland is moving in favour of the concept and practice of a national Finnish home, rather than a European state in the political, EU sense. The demise of policies like the obligatory teaching of Swedish in Finnish schools (the so-called "pakkoruotsi" or "tvångsvenskan") may have far-reaching implications for the ways in which modern Finland interacts with the modern world - yet in its reassertion of local and national identity Finland is only following a general trend that is now making itself felt throughout Europe.

The Svenskfinland in English blog has some useful facts and figures about the election results, and the Perussuomalaiset website (in Finnish) is here.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


I'm working on some translations of poems from Bo Carpelan's last collection, Gramina (2010).These will probably be published in Books from Finland.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


by Pia Tafdrup

The first Saturday is weightless and reflected monotonous
in the insects’ meditating buzz; the beginning endless
The second Saturday the city looks like a deserted ballroom
where the invited guests have gone home early
The third Saturday I am called out
to morning-drowsy plane trees along the sidewalk
and streets where cars stand parked in long rows
The dust sticks dry to shoes whose worn heels click
against the asphalt like homeless echoes
One or two dogs wander lazily about
and under the deep-sea sky washing is taken in
from balcony railings and the city’s flat roofs
Even the cash machines observe the Sabbath
like a prophecy that has been fulfilled
Still, a tribute to the Russian Church with its verdigris onion domes
and stray cats jumping around one another on the steps
Opposite, a barrier goes up for a jeep on the way out
otherwise the police station lies ecstatically empty
From pines the birds are heard, not seldom confused
with the sound of an old man who is playing a saw
and among clusters of roses the oleander blooms like wild fever
at the traffic lights near the Jaffa Gate
where groups of bird-like men with taliths
appear on foot en route to the synagogue
Mornings where Jerusalem seems no less quiet
than when Jonah slept safely on the bottom of the storm-tossed ship
as I remember it from my childhood’s sailing.

translated from Danish by David McDuff