Last night saw a fantastically Finland-themed event, complete with Nordic canapés (which went down a treat!). Donald Adamson was first up, reading from his latest collection: From Coiled Roots. He regaled us with tales of the breaking and ‘tinkling’ noises of ice on lakes surrounded by pine trees; the jagged shards in time becoming a face “winking lasciviously at us”. Donald also treated us to translations of Finland’s Eeva Kilpi, namely her moving love poem – A Song About Love (centred around a conversation between two aged lovers, discussing their respective ailments). For this piece, Donald was joined on the floor by Chrys Salt. Finally, Donald read from When One of Us is Gone, by Lassi Nummi.
Liz Niven took to the floor with surprising translations of Finnish into Scots, many the product of her Red Sofa collaboration with Aila Juvonen. Liz also gave illuminating Scots translations from the very long Karelian saga, The Kalevala (Finland’s national epic).
Aila Juvonen is from the Karela region of Finland, the majority of which was traumatically seized by Russia in 1940. The region has its own unique dialect, currently spoken by about 5000 Finns. Many of Aila’s poems were haunted by family memories of burning villages and a sense of unbelonging, engendered by displacement.
Drawing on his dual experience as a gardener as well as a poet, Gerry Loose impressed us with a series of poems exploring the relationship between flowers and the human world, most fruitfully with the sinister legacy of Faslane (“bombs spawn here”), and also with an astonishing translation of an ancient Ogham inscription from a fifth century, carved stone on Bute. We were also honoured to hear from a work in progress, something hovering between prose poem and novel, set in Finland and evoking the enigmatic interaction of various eccentric rural characters (most memorably a mushroom picker who wears bells to warn the forest bears of her approach). Vodka freezes at -26.95 degrees, apparently, and Finnish winters can go down to -40.
With Donald Adamson married to a Finn and several of Aila Juvonen’s daughters resident in Scotland, this was a truly enlightening night of cross-cultural pollination.