28.11.2014

ENSYKLOPEDIAA JA KOMPASTELUA



Finnish Poets Janne Nummela and Katariina Vuorinen at Humber Mouth ( an appreciation with academic undertones) By Michelle Dee

I find myself in the scholarly surroundings of the James Reckitt Reading Room inside Hull Central Library. Today is Saturday, today is grey but today I am presented with a rare chance to learn about Finnish verse from published poets   Janne Nummela and Katariina Vuorinen.
Introduced by Tony Ward and described by same as a ‘genius of the wilderness and a polymath', being both poet and a geologist.
Janne stumbles into his reading.
I am immediately struck by the strange intonation, I like the slight rise at the end of each line as if asking a question or looking for a response. This work is all about thought processes, voicing ideas, nothing definite everything questioning. He stands reading each poem in crumpled shirt, straggly light brown hair falling over broad shoulders every bit the ‘mountain man’ .
Characterised by a strong sense of place and the natural world Janne and Katariina’s verse is steeped in Scandinavian mysticism and magic. The old places: the earth; the rock and the secret places; the halflight found in clearings deep inside dark spruce forests. The evidence of nature’s presence is all around in the Finnish landscape, the feeling of being connected to the ancestral past is easier to come by somehow.
'Encyclopedia' is a strange and ambitious work that responds with poetic sensibility to various words or statements. During the piece you find yourself testing the accuracy of the statement, the form - the tumble of ‘facts’ have you hooked and you read the work like you would a reference book... at least for a while.
There is playfulness here and more evidence of getting rid of the poet’s mouth: a breaking away from normative structure and recognisable rhythmic patterns. Now I know about 'Temptation' and I know what it means 'when a hamster rattles its teeth' and I know how to 'flush out chimeras'. I know all this, it is written down in Encyclopedia and it might just be true.
 ‘spacecraft and nectar for Greek deities’ I hear in the translation ‘ banished sea creatures’ and then ‘ the call of the silverback jackal’
Described in the introduction as ‘questioning traditional poetry forms’ Katariina begins with a poem about childhood and imagination. The poem is partly inspired by a leaflet from 1960’s Hull that she found in a box of her departed Mother’s belongings.
‘Unfinished memories and needlework’ strange juxtapositions of thought and idea. Not reading but performing her work from memory and occasionally singing, Kataariina dressed in military style jacket has an arresting performance style: her eyes search the room, her voice soft, low and hypnotic.
Her poem about the tradition and expectation of marriage, 'The Wedding Day'  as an identity stealer and taker of dreams, has me enthralled, so many images prompting conflicting emotions, some familiar yet somehow with a veil of otherness around them.
Now Katariina is singing a waltz and I’m swaying gently from side to side, sat in the back row of the Reading Room.
It is suggested that the singing of verse comes from the oral tradition of stories and poems being handed down through families and generations, coupled with a rennaisance in performance in Finland.
Living, as many do, in boxes of brick in cities of concrete and steel, we are so often cut off from nature, and also under exposed to natural light. Katariina is very much aware of light, the many different forms and feelings of light, both physically in nature and in human behaviour. A strange notion for UK residents to grasp, seeing as we allow our lifes to be regulated by daytime and nightfall.  Imagine if you did live in a place where dusk lasted for days; hazy days followed by endless night.  Imagine the changing of the seasons being much more a part of the collective pysche, where it meant far more than deciding to don an extra layer, you would hope for your ‘voice’ to be tempered by these experiences.
In a particular moving poem Katariina leaves the shores of Finland and travels to war-torn Southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, to share 'Dreams of Mostar'. Transporting the listeners she momentarily embodies the confusion of war, not overly sympathetic with careful precision she avoids taking sides, yet leaves you in no illusions about the pain. The images she pulls out of the ruins of the city are held up like talismans, on which the hopes and dreams of battle-scarred survivors can hang. My favourite poem today I think has to be the opening piece.  'Lessons of Hope and Idleness' . The last lines...
 'You sprinkle salt to protect you, repeat the magic word, a thousand
 words for girl',
speak to the reawakening and revisiting of the intricate layered narratives of playtime and the potency of imagination. With every re-read forgotten scenes are conjured and memories prompted.
It is just as important to recall childhood dreams, as it is to never forget the horrors of war.
My question to both Janne and Katariina after both readings provoked much discussion afterwards. I asked about the landscape they lived in and how I noticed that the natural world appeared heavily in both of their writing. In response Janne shares a theory told to him by an Icelandic poet, a theory about energies emanating from the soil or rock beneath our feet: how that energy or force can shape who we are, our dreams and aspirations and the atmosphere of a place. Further exploration on this idea about 'the power of place' and what would happen to the ‘self’ if that soil or rock was then changed (by natural or man's intervention) has me ever so intrigued.
My discussions with Katariina centred more on the power of translation, something I am acutely aware of having listened to much of the Finnish verse being translated out loud, for the English audience here today. A curious arrangement but a neccesary one for comprehension. It did lead to the readings having a slight disjointed feel.
I am delighted when Katariina Vuorinen reprises some of her poems at Monday’s Musician’s Night at the New Adelphi Club a few days later. Her voice floats from the hallowed stage where so many poets and singers have gone before. A very special treat for those Monday night revelers.
Before the end of the day I have purchased a copy of Six Finnish Poets by Arc Publications signed by both Janne and Katariina... Janne has written in large curly letters over the page leaf 'Hull Rocks'"

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