From Lake Onega and Other Poems (Salt 2006)
[The poems published here are] translations and adaptations by the Author, some of them based on drafts by Tommi Nuopponen. The original, Ääninen, was accompanied by a web interface where the user can produce new syntactical and metrical sonnets based on all the words in the book. For an introduction to the work, see an essay by Kuisma Korhonen, “Renaissance @ www.leevilehto.net” available at www.leevilehto.net.
“Ääninen” is the Finnish name for Lake Onega, in Russian Eastern Karelia. This was the furthest the Finnish troops advanced during The Continuation War, 1942-45 – too far in many people’s opinion, me included. The title is also a literal translation of the word “sonnet”, “ääni” being Finnish for both “voice” and “sound”, “nen” again the ending indicating a diminutive form of a substantive. “Ääninen”, while not idiomatic, thus means “small voice”.
[Original Finnish titles given in square brackets]
“Manual by Proxy” [Käyttöohjeen sijasta]. Based on a 40’s reader by Tauno Karilas, in his time a well-known pedagogue and popular educator.
“News From Otava” [Otavan uutisia]. “Otava”: a prestigious Finnish publishing house, the publisher of my poetry up to Kielletyt leikit (1994). “Kamppi”, “Punavuori”: neighbourhoods in downtown Helsinki.
“John Winston Worm”. Originally “Yoko Ono Mato”, “mato” being Finnish for “worm”. As the final couplet belies, the original is based homophonically on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73.
“With Us, the Bulls” [Sonneja on meillä useasti]. Based on 40’ Finnish popular encyclopaedia, Tietojen kirja, the section on “Agriculture”.
“On the Meaning Of ‘To Be’”[Siitä mitä on, että se on]: original source: a Finnish dictionary of sayings and proverbs.
“Oft And Always” [Re: Sidney: Astrophil and Stella, 45]. The Finnish version is a translation of Sir Philip Sydney’s “Sonnet 45” in Astrophil And Stella (1581-82), the English one an improvisation on that.
“An Overdose of Characters” [Liikaa henkilöitä]. “Entelechian”: From the Aristotelian concept of entelechia: “The entelechy of a living being is conceived of as the inner telos (end) of its internal material process of becoming, and, as such, it is clearly distinguished from any external teleological relation.”
“The Anti-Climax of Mr. Permaneder” [Hra Permanederin anti-kliimaks]. Mr. Permaneder is a character in Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain.
“From Suite ‘Reading Mr. O. P.’, I” [Sarjasta O.P.:tä lukiessa I] Based on passage (in reversed word order) from a book of essays, Nykyaikaa etsimässä (In Search For the Present Time, 1929), by Olavi Paavolainen (1903-1964), a well-known Finnish gentleman of arts and letters who first introduced Finns to dada.
“The Waste Island” [Autio saari], originally an adaptation of a rare Finnish sonnet, “Asumaton saari”, by the poet Heikki Asunta (1904-1959).
“Lake Onega” [Ääninen] features both real and imaginary titles.
“The Voltaire Killings”. Original title: “Volter Kilpi Blues”. Volter Kilpi (1874-1939): a Finnish experimental novelist known for his “Joycean” and “Proustian” techniques.
“The Language of Flow (I think)” [Vedekieltä (kai)] A palimpsest on a passage in the early diaries of the Modernist poet, Pentti Saarikoski (Nuoruuden päiväkirjat, Otava).
“Back Office” [Back office]. Derives from fragments in a “New Hirings” column in the Economics section of Helsingin Sanomat, the major Finnish newspaper.
“Jagellonicae” [Jagellonicae]. Cf. Katarina Jagellonica, a 16th century noblewoman, Princess of Poland, then Queen of Sweden, and wife to Duke Juhana, son of the King Gustaf Wasa . “Frederika”: could refer to Frederika Runeberg (1807-1879), a writer, and wife to J. L. Runeberg (1804-1877) one of the Finnish National Scalds. Klaus Fleming, Marchal of Suitia, a Finnish nobleman from the 16th century, son to the sister of the third wife of Gustaf Wasa. Fleming was active in the hereditary strifes after Wasa’s death, taking side against Duke Karl, as immortalized in a well-known painting by Albert Edefelt, “Duke Karl abusing the corpse of Klaus Fleming” (1878). “Kivi, the opera”, by Einojuhani Rautavaara, premiered in 1997, is based on the life of Aleksis Kivi (1834-1872), the “Father” of Finnish novel and author of Seitsemän veljestä (“The Seven Brothers”, 1870). “Hynninen”: Jorma Hynninen (b. 1941) is one of the most successful Finnish baritone singers ever. “Sigmund”, cf. “Sigismund”, one of Gustaf Wasa’s sons. In my parlance at least, “Sigmund” is euphemistic for what it seems to be here, a Freudian lapse.
“The Worlds Pocketed By Words” [Sisene, G!]. “Da Lentino”: Giacamo da Lentino (1188-1240) was a “lawyer” in Fredrik’s II famous Sicilian court and generally thought to be the “inventor” of sonnet.
“For Kirsi” [Kirsille]. “Possum’s Question”. Cf. T. S. Eliot: “A Dedication To My Wife”, ending: “These are private words addressed to you in public.” (In Collected Poems, 1909-1935, Faber and Faber, fifteenth impression 1963.) “On? Ni?” A case of direct transplanting from the original. “On” is “is” in Finnish, “onni”, again, “happiness”. Here, of course, “On? Ni? On?” is meant to rhyme with “onion” at line 10. “Mirabilis Jalapa”: this family of flowers, native to South America, is also known as four o’ clock, marvel-of-Peru, beauty-of-the-night: they are “leafy, shrublike, multi-branched perennials that produce flowers all summer long. The plants are erect and spreading, 2-3 ft (0.6-0.9 m) tall and just as wide. They have numerous branches and opposite, pointed leaves 2-4 in (5-10 cm) long. The fragrant flowers are borne singly or in clusters, and can be red, magenta, pink, yellow or white, sometimes with more than one color on the same plant.”
“From Suite ‘Reading Mr. O. P.’, 4” [Sarjasta O.P.:tä lukiessa 4]. Cf. note to “From Suite ‘Reading Mr. O. P.’,1” above.
“Father Opened the Bedroom Door” [“Isä avasi makuuhuoneen oven…”]. The title is an quote from Lev Tolstoy’s suite “Childhood”, “Boyhood”, “Early Manhood”.
“Paparazzi. Now (Onegin One)” [Paparazzi. Nyt (Onegin 1)]. The original is an exercise in what is known as the Onegin Stanza, used by the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin in his famous novel in verse, Evgenij Onegin (1825-31, transl. as Eugene Onegin by Vladimir Nabokov, 1964). As for the “paparazzi” and other imagery, there may be a connection to the murder of the Italian Fashion guru, Gianni Versacci, in California, very much in the news at the time of the writing.
“Jack Goodman (Jukka Mallinen)” [Jukka Mallinen]. Jukka Mallinen (b. 1952) is a Finnish poet, and translator of, among others, Joseph Brodsky and Arkadii Dragomoshchenko. “A nightingale’s song”: in original “A corncrake’s singing”, a quote from “Nocturno”, a well-known poem by Eino Leino (1878-1926), one of the Finnish National Bards. “Zärätläk”: Hungarian for “I love you”.
“Exactly. Absolutely” [Täsmensi hän]. A very free improvisation on the original sonnet “Täsmensi hän”.
“Myrmecophilial” [Myrmekologi]. Myrmecology: a science of ants.
“Negative Capability” [Negatiivinen kyky]. Half-homophonical on the Finnish original which, again, is half-homophinical on John Keat’s “Bright Star” sonnet.