Afterword to Kuuskajaskari, by Jyrki Pellinen, published by ntamo in bilingual edition, 2007
Appearing, as it did, after Talvipalatsi (The Winter Palace, 1959) by Paavo Haavikko, Orfiset laulut (The Orphic Songs, 1960) by Eeva-Liisa Manner, and Mitä tapahtuu todella (What’s Going On Really, 1962) by Pentti Saarikoski, Jyrki Pellinen’s 1964 book Kuuskajaskari represents a step forward into what Tuomas Anhava, the theoretician of Finnish 50’s Modernism, liked to call “the autonomization of the image”. Anhava’s use of the term “image” is not unproblematic: it carries echoes from the Imagism of Pound and others, and even today, it is customary – even habitual for many – to understand the Finnish Modernist image as precicely a still one. If anything, with Pellinen (who was perhaps the greatest discovery of Anhava, the big impresario of a small country), the image never comes to a standstill. This is evident already at the surface level: most of his images “have movement in them” – to hasten to mention a central philosophical tenet in Kuuskajaskari. In more than one way, the work is founded on the tension between “being” and “becoming”, attempting to write the “being-as-becoming” – “Now I have attached movement to being. It is a walking.”(120-121). I’m thinking of movement as it is discernible, say, here: “He storms over his first possibility.” (14-15) “He went past his opportunity” would be a phrase that could be represented as a still image – Pellinen’s reformulation, besides accelerating its implicit speed, also gives it a certain frantic energy (“storms”) and to the energy, a direction: not “at” nor “past”, but “over” – we see feet flit to and fro in dust as in a comic strip frame (and the comic srip would be a good trope for how images in Kuuskajaskari move and relate to each other), at the same time tuning us in to wait for the next image that could give a hint about where (toward what collision) this storming is headed. Movement, being-as-becoming, and force – these are my initial bearings for understanding Pellinen’s work.
However, in Kuuskajaskari, the image (in the sense of trope or metaphor) is also gaining independence in another, more radical, way. “I chase images forcing them side by side”, Haavikko wrote in Talvipalatsi, imagistically-ideogrammatically. As has been noted, the Finnish “pakotan”, for “forcing”, has a double sense, also describing the patient embossing work of a silver smith. Leena Kaunola associates this with a third interpretative dimension, connected to the “trope of frozen words”, and the opposition between speech and writing. Kuuskajaskari, from start to finish, is characterized by a certain breathless speech-like quality – yet without a hint of an attempt, typical for much Finnish 60’s poetry, to transcribe everyday speech: on the contrary, Pellinen’s writing is perhaps the most irrevocably literary of the poetry of the Golden Age of Finnish Modernism – “go push eyes to the emperor’s mouth”. Compared to that of the patient silver smith, it displays a completely different attitude toward its vessels: “Setting up a light-colored apron for dish wash. The first dish will be thrown to smithereens. The kettles, flying toward the refrigerator.” (14-15) In Kuuskajaskari, the images not only “represent movement”, and not only “move” – say, in relation to each other – but, more importantly, fly, and always toward something, and (nearly always) into smithereens – “the description of life is not tender”, the young poet warns us already in his first line. Perhaps we could situate Pellinen in the Anhava saga of the autonomization of image the following way: in a “traditional” poem, the movement is from thought to image, the latter being a trope in a simple sense of “condensed thought”. The autonomized image, again, attempts to “speak by itself”, trying to make the movement proceed out from it, toward the thought which, here, doesn’t have to meet with conventional expectations – being free to express the “originality” of the poets mind. With Pellinen, however, the autonomization of images causes them to cease to speak entirely – in order to do something else altogether. This brings us to the question about the relations between poem, language, thinking, and consciousness.
In our deeply in-grained, Platonic, tendency to understand a poem as “having” a thought – a meaning – we usually see the latter as something “surrounding”, or “enfolding”, it. Should it be possible – even with difficulty – to extract it from the poem afterwards, the condition of this is that it “was there already”, before the birth of the poem, i.e. in the poet’s head, as her intention, or, on the contrary, “is” something objectively effected in and by the poem, independently of the poet’s intentions, but still – at least as an interpretative horizon – as something really existing. My claim here is that, in each of the cases, we are, in the last instance, reduced to supposing the poem to take place at the level of consciousness – be that communication, self-expression, communal identity-building, or whatever. The importance of Jyrki Pellinen for the development of Finnish poetry (and perhaps beyond that) lies in the difficulty of applying either of these models to his work; instead, I want to read it, down to the smallest detail, as a collision of thinking with (standard) language, as a rift, a site of a violent crash, between intention and effect, experience and expression, thought and consciousness. In this reading, I try to detach myself both from the readings where Pellinen has been seen as a “private mystician” (a poet of a more or less autistic consciousness), and those that see him as having moved beyond poetry and language altogether… Between these, I want to chart a narrow path, along “the border between emptiness and understanding” (22-23), following which I will try to describe Kuuskajaskari and Pellinen as applicable to poetry in itself and in general (and that possibly more today than before).
When speaking of the collision of a – light-speed – thought with language, my sense is not metaphorical, but concrete and materialistic. I’m thinking of, say, any single manuscript for a Pellinen work. These are even today mostly machine-typed, on an old-fashioned typewriter, bearing marks of the collision and contradiction I spoke of earlier With many other writers, these would be represented by corrections, over-typed words and phrases, additions between the lines. With Pellinen, you don’t find any of this, simply because he hasn’t got time for such – instead, he may write the “same” word three of four times over, in none of the instances necessarily complying with the normative grammatical expectation; this way, far from forming a document of the a search for a (“coherent”) meaning, they come across as – in a certain fundamental way – random traces of a thinking having whirled over them, in storming over its first (then second, then third…) possibility. Language not as a home, let alone source, of thinking, but as something “originally” foreign to it, or as its straitjacket (I will return to the centrality of the idea of the straitjacket in Kuuskajaskari, cf. “I was put in shackles. Not a word.” (40-41)), and one that thinking, in order for it to accomplish anything at all, needs to tear apart first. Poetry as a site of this tearing apart.
Yet it would be wrong to emphasize the originality (tragic quality) of this collision and tearing-apart. In the end – and I’m only now approaching what Kuuskajaskari may be “all about” – the collision between thought and language itself is neither random nor originary; instead, it’s better seen as a symptom (my claim being that in a work like Kuuskajaskari, “everything is symptom”, and that to read it, we need to acquire the skills of “symptomatic reading”, quite in the original Althusserian sense of the term) of the centrality of things like force and energy for this kind of writing. After all, how could it be possible to think of force without an effect, and of an effect without an impact on something.
The author tells me that among the “influences” that led to write Kuuskajaskari there was a book by the Japanese writer and poet, Arishima Takeo (1878-1923), The Agony Of Coming Into the World. This could almost serve as a subtitle of Pellinen’s work: at one level, it can be read as a study of the place and role of initiation (of identity building) and its associated rites in cultures. As the author’s second book (soon to be seen as his break-through), Kuuskajaskari itself is of course part of his own initiation into the literary culture of the time – accordingly, the work can be seen as obsessed with the theme of tradition. At the same time, it is markedly conscious of the impossibility of embracing, taking in, or internalizing, the tradition: “For isn’t it not that frequent for one and same man to have been bereft of several forefathers already, without a single one buried yet.” (16-17) Not buried: tradition, in order to exist, is out of necessity a gallery of ghosts. But isn’t this, on second thought, exactly what is, again out of necessity, meant by tradition? Thus when we – quite easily – will consider characteristic for a piece of art to be able to “live forever”, it is enough just to stress the verb a little, and it will become evident that “life” here cannot refer to any standing upright on a pedestal; quite the contrary, “the time, when halting, became / an eternal movement”, turning it into an eternal fucking-around in a never-halting lunatic bin: in stead of any neat, canonical order, we have a whirlwind of fathers (there’s no single, unambiguous father in Kuuskajaskari). Already at page 2, the kingdom of poetry has two heads – Musset and Corneille. Except that, on a closer reading, both of them turn out to be beheaded, so that one has to add: tradition is an endless fucking-around of beheaded ghosts in a (more and more full-packed) lunatic bin.
Let us not hurry ahead of things, though (for not be left behind). In calling Kuuskajaskari an account (a cyclorama) of initiation, I’m thinking of the registers of birth, of the formation of “ego” or “I” (the Lacanian “mirror phase”, see further), of school and education, of sexual “awakening”, as well as of later professional and other socialization. In fact, the cyclorama treats these registers in a surprisingly neat narrative sequence. Let’s browse the book quickly. Early on (pages 6 to 17 here, say) the word “I” is markedly absent (except for a few glimpses of an authorial I: symptomatically, however, it is an “I” that is “of this and that”: not a fixed one, and note especially: “the children sit aside, perhaps in trees” (8-9): actually, Kuuskajaskari is radically anti-Freudian). The first “I” complying to the requirements of the lyrical tradition is encountered on pages 20-21, yet not without a preceding longish account of “him” (pages 13-17). This long prose poem would deserve a more thorough reading that I am able give it here: suffice it to point out that we see “him” in (from) a mirror; thus, he is a “non-I”, a sign of the missing I and I missing, and thus – naturally – an upside-down one, even in its behavior: “He stood up slowly and broke the door-handle to open it quickly and unnoticeably.” (12-13) So unlike noone! As a non-I, he is also the “mistress in the closet” of the opening poem, and here at last the reader will be conscious the strong spatiality of Kuuskajaskari: just about everything takes place in space here (even more than in time). The closet, the straitjacket, the rooms one comes “forth from” as well as “flies into” – as in the important poem “concerning virginity” on pages 22-28 where we seem to enter the intricacies of sexual initiation. Let me try these two angles.
One. The organization of the primary relations is radically different compared to the Freudian triangle: first “she came”; then “we were”, “after us she Withdrew”; come “all others innumerable”. No symbiotic primary state, no intervention of the Third; rather, “we were” could be read as representing the Lacanian “little a”, the reflection and projection of “I” within the imaginary order, whereas “all others innumerable” would allude to the “big A” as it gets organized inside the symbolic order: to other people whose world is a coherent one, yet, seen from inside the poem, fundamentally irrelevant and empty – as the poet lashingly puts it, in stead of the expected phrase, “they wanted to know what had happened”: “wanted to know that now something had happened” (22-23). No matter what! This almost describes a certain fundamental, destructive tendency in contemporary culture, speech, and “consciousness”.
Two. Parallel to the absence of Freudian socialization, the poem makes evident the use of the concept of space in Kuuskajaskari: while it’s possible to read it as a narrative of initiation, it is not geared toward a neat organization of space, its mastery etc., but instead toward its accelerating fragmentation, in the core of which is a dismemberment of the body – Kuuskajaskari is not an account of whole and integrated bodies (physical, mental, literary, social), but of body parts, and of the endlessly polymorphic relations between them. “The highest strengths get eaten out by tows”, “the legs and the flanks of legs are the most dangerous”, “I could still hear her little face” (22-23), “Phew what unhappy misleading limbs”, “tossing to and fro here and there with all her misshaped limbs […] transformed headlongly human” (24-25). Etc. (I could fill the rest of the essay with related quotations.)
The acceptance of the fragmentation (no, its joyous embracing, an inciting to it), translates, among other things, into a rejection of all Dualisms: between the ego and the world, spirit and matter, etc. The fundamental Monism of the world in Kuuskajaskari may receive its most beautiful expression in the poem at pages 18-19, precisely the one where we first seem to meet the “lyrical I”: “I stood a brown suitcase […] in my hand. Now it was in my mind. […] after the suitcase, I have put an Indian hat on my head.” The head as a part of the body, on the one hand, and as a mental actor on the other, are more than replacable, they slide into, and “get born” from, each other. Thus, also, “[t]his character, it should not be searched for like for something deep in a closet.” (38-39)
The play focuses on Don Rodrigue and Chimène. Rodrigue is the young upstart general of mediaeval Spain, whereas Chimène’s father is the successful current general, Comte Gormas and past his prime. Rodrigue and Chimène love each other, but any chance of marriage is brutally disturbed when Chimène’s father insults Rodrigue’s father, Don Diègue. Torn between his love for Chimène and his duty to avenge his father’s honour, Rodrigue chooses the latter and faces the general in a duel in which Comte Gormas is killed. Without denying her love, Chimène asks the King for Rodrigue’s head. (Summary of the initial setting in Le Cid, by Corneille, Wikipedia).
The allusions to Musset and Corneille in the opening poem may not be that off-hand after all – at least they manage to enact a certain tension between Romanticism and Classicism that is characteristic of the work as a whole, and isn’t Le Cid (1636), by Corneille, after all, known as one of the first tragicomedies (abandoning the classic Aristotelian distinction); cf. Kuuskajaskari: “Now I live in the laughter of these death-black speeches of mine.” (28-29) My suggestion, however, is for us to read the Pellinen version as a specifically textual romance, a romance with textuality, thus subsuming its various contexts of socialization (the kingdom, the house, the family, the tribe…) in the last instance – forgive me the antiquated pun – to that of textual initiation.
After all, don’t the opening poems (and note that Chimène is “in the closet”) already introduce the poet as “torn between” two languages (the double quality of language): on one hand, he is “this and that”, and thus able to “speak a sheer lie”, so that his claim for “the world, though, to be a wrong one”, is admirably true precisely on that basis; on the other he loves “the poets of all tim- / es” “in order for there to be a castle like a standstill” – and for us to see”through the night’s wet boughs into the night’s lustrous sea” (10-11): the ideal of the transparency of language. Yet Pellinen wouldn’t be Pellinen, should he not, even faced with this dilemma, be above all “this” and “that”: unlike Don Rodrigue, the hero in Kuuskajaskari (I won’t say: refuses to choose, but instead) will never have time for it. Rather, he will avoid choosing, in his own upside-down way, always storming over his next possibility. And now the time has come to answer: to bump against what?
Not against the “other one”, nor its absence, but against having – by and through his very storming – already, always already, made his choice. Thus, he is constantly stepping out of the closet of the imaginary into the house of the symbolic; and yet even there, “there were two of them before me”, the hero now rather being in “the cellar’s cellar”, saying, without giving up: “Attack ye, I’m the darkness, against walls, I’m against walls like devotion.” (42-43)
“Like a statue that, in order to stay where it is, has to continue to run frantically”, the poet Olli Sinivaara once wrote me in an email regarding another – still unpublished – Pellinen manuscript. Yes, setting things into an eternal motion of course also implies eternal halting (return). Thus, when Pellinen in Kuuskajaskari refuses to participate in “the language game of information”, by writing, say, “that woman had, because of her skirt, loved a single one.” (42-43), it is enough, again, to add some emphasis on the word “skirt”, and information starts flowing: the syntactic misplacement (“a single one”) not only is “expressive”, it is also s a necessary part of a machinery (of a simple device, “not difficult to understand”, 36-37) making it possible for the poet to abstain from choosing, to be in two places simultaneously, to drop the (symbolic) head of a Gormas and to give his own (imaginary, feathered) one to Chimène – the skirt is “her”, sure, but the “because of” is (not) “a single one’s”: we never withdrew in the first place into any straitjacket of a body in shackles where love could come to be an object of an expected symbolic exchange. The first lines of the next poem make this difficulty almost too easy to understand: “Shining thighs, of the size of a light color, and their movement is aimed at the skirts foremost movement. Walking feet, willy-nilly without a right sureness.” (my emphasis.) In stead of an initated, identical subject, the point of view continues to be that of the dismembered body parts.
The paradox of abstaining from choosing can here also be expressed by saying that, precisely since Kuuskajaskari refuses the resolution (the bringing of the subject into the symbolic order), it has to begin there: already the first line is a summary of everything to come, and in spite of certain shared themes with Talvipalatsi, this is not a “a journey through known language toward / the region that is not a place”. Rather, Kuuskajaskari is radical because of its taking place inside “language as we know it” (and so not to be seen either as autistic, or as “moved beyond”). We could also say that it “does not have” a language, at least not in the sense of a “created”, “new” poetic one. Its journey is a dashing to and fro in the registers and mirror halls of language, “feeling around [one] like a wooden duck just arrived to the shore”, but “smiling” (90-91).
My allusion to Le Cid incites me to read Derrida’s essay on Romeo and Juliet (“Aphorism Countertime”); his concept of contretemps could well be applied to the Pellinen aesthetics of collisions as well. As we know, in dealing with the above questions of double-bind, Derrida likes to focus on the dynamics of the proper name. In Kuuskajaskari, not many names are thrown around after all (“I love the poets of all tim- / es in order for them to be deprived of their names”, 8-9), and to finish this off, I’d like to suggest that they, here, are replaced by another linguistic category, also a source of many conceptual headaches (and one that has haunted poets from Goethe on, if not before…): colors (and isn’t our knowledge of colors limited to that of their names, after all?). The “blue cinnabar” in the opening poem represents the first brush-stroke, leading later into a rather elaborated spectrum, dominated, it seems, by bright primary colors, but note also “I’m afraid of all colors. Taken separately, they are awful: for instance clean browns, greens, or yellows. They alone are surely sufficient to destroy whole worlds (and worlds again, by the dozers).” (112-113) Launonen, insightfully, reads this dread of colors as a shunning away from “given concepts”; the “taken separately” allusion could also be associated with Goethe’s denial of the independent existence of the colors – I guess the two poets would agree in thinking of color as only being born where light and darkness meet – and of darkness, especially, not to be understood as an “absence of light”, as a complete nothingness: cf. “the laughter of death-black speeches of mine”. It may not be a coincidence that just about where Kuuskajaskari, at the prosodic-syntactical level, is dominated by an almost hammering repetitiveness (“only just now only just now the soldiers soldiers letters / empty empty fullness eyes stab eyes temple”, 104-105), we also have “green’s green” and “I am now a green yellow” (80-81): in each case, we are dealing with a laying out of a spectre (two consecutive words, “soldier”, are not the “same”). Thus the work effects a dismemberment of colors as well – one that the poet sort of finishes off by stating, bluntly, “I am a striped animal and even more than that, I’m a paragraph, a fragment a block an object, and on that determined condition that I will separate these wasted prisoners always in the process of sinking deep into the painted surfaces.” (112-113, my emphasis)
I have argued that in Kuuskajaskari, “thinking” collides with “language”, and that “everything takes place in language” in this book. This apparent contradiction is resolved if we understand thinking as a force, and thus, in itself, having a tendency to collide. This way, we can avoid making a dualistic separation between even thinking and language: the fundamental materiality of thinking – cf. Pellinen’s admirable, twice repeated formulation of that in the concluding essay: “And as we now keep thinking and not one thought goes as far up as the head” (120-121) – is symptomized, in Kuuskajaskari, by the materiality of language. The poets claim, “even more I am […] an object”, is itself a symptom and a site of this materiality: the Finnish word “kappale” referring to both “paragraph” and “object” – and the poet, in his “being-becoming”, being both, in a strong and swift and unified and healthy flight over all the possibilities. Or, in the words of Deleuze:
Non pas une pensée qui se croit légistlatrice, parce qu’elle n’obéit qu´à la raison, mais une pensée qui pense contre la raison: “Ce qui sera toujours impossible, être raisonnable.” [cf. Pellinen: “and [I] was blamed for clearmindedness”, 24-25, “And really, I beat all the requirements of reasonability”, 28-29] On se trompe beaucoup sur l’irrationalisme tant qu’on croit que cette doctrine oppose à la raison autre chose que la pensée […] Dans l’irrationalisme, il ne s’agit pas d’autre chose que de la pensée […] Ce qu’on oppose à la raison, c’est la pensée elle-même; ce qu’on oppose à l’être raisonnable, c’est le penseur lui-même.13
This, for me, is a description of that “something else” that “images” in Kuuskajaskari set out to do.
The voice of this thinker setting himself up against thought and rational being resounds, in harmonic distortion, in the concluding mock-essays, “On literature’s form” and “What modern architecture deserves”. In a way, they can be seen as closing the narrative of initiation, in that the “hero” is now tossing and turning in an evidently social landscape with its streets of price-control, illuminated by the shopping windows and trade shows decorated by editors, “when one wants to underline the greyness of the streets” (116-117). And now he needs to say, “what is the law of all merchandises [objects]”.
And – this is my final claim – he does say it: the Finnish boom of a “commited”, “political” poetry raising its dialectical double head in the early 60’s15, the one among our poets most often labeled as anti-social sleepwalks the Marx of the Theses On Feuerbach right among the “organized legion” of the “fanatical bad professional civil servants or professional virtuosos”. Where Pentti Saarikoski, in Mitä tapahtuu todella, thinks of Communism in a fundamentally Leninist-Utopian way (“I want to live in a Communist society that is of one animal”), Pellinen’s analysis is concrete and practical: “An elementary worker works in various environments.” Even the rhythm is different, guiding us to understand an elementary truth – namely, that “elementary worker” is an abstraction, a social relation. Not only is he not “of one animal”, he is not a subject either: “His working environment, through his eyes, is himself.” This is new knowledge: “through the ages / not even a single detail ever told” (8-9) “a single correct mention of persons or architecture or deal-making that’d be a relation” (123-124). Not a single mention: since in an organized (“Capitalist”) society, the social relations between people cannot be visible for them except in an “upside-down” way: even though “[a]n editor of a newspaper is related to the real-estate agent that again being related to the train dispatcher”; “[t]his, however, is only a reflection16 regarding that they have nothing to do with trains newspapers or those in need of apartments”. The poet – anyone – cannot make this state of alienation go away. It may not be possible even to know it. Yet it will at least be possible for the poet, having arrived here without moving a bit – and, symptomatically enough, he now refers to himself as “we” – to think about it, without “a single thought going as far up as into the head”, making this final and excruciating, both utterly pessimistic and hilarious, claim about society and ideology: “Architecture is necessary everywhere where there is air, in order for it to be able to show that air exists.” (124-125)
The poet is left with the “possibilities for walking”, nearer or further off.
1 See, for instance, the essay, “Runon uudistumisesta” (1956, on Eeva-Liisa Manner), in Anhava, Todenkaltaisuudesta, Helsinki: Otava 2002, 389-400.
2 “Pellinen’s philosophy (if one is allowed to speak about philosophy) is typically that of Becoming”, another theoretician of the Finnish Modernism, Vilho Viksten, wrote in an early review (“Kuvien kuulija” [The Hearer Of Images”], Parnasso 7/1964). “A phrase, with Pellinen, is often like an image of a metaphor.” But the reviewer also warned about the poet “placing too much trust on language”; the reader being sometimes “left dumbfounded, not knowing where the poem alludes to”. Other early reviewers of Kuuskajaskari included Tuukka Kangasluoma (Aamulehti), Pekka Kejonen (Kansan Uutiset), Pentti Lamminpää (Satakunnan Kansa), Pekka Piirto (Helsingin Sanomat), Mirjam Polkunen (Uusi Suomi), Kyösti Rantasalo (Suomalainen Suomi 8/1964), Aku-Kimmo Ripatti (Savon Sanomat), Laila Seppä (Kouvolan Sanomat), Mika Suvioja (Ylioppilaslehti), and Leo Vuotila (Vartija 4/1965). For commentary, see Rita Dahl’s biography, Pellinen, forthcoming from ntamo.
3 Leena Kaunola: Sanojen palatsi. Puhujan määrittely ja teoskokonaisuuden hahmotus Paavo Haavikon Talvipalatsissa. Helsinki: SKS 2001. See especially pages 36-48. The idea of words “freezing” as soon as they get spoken can be found in Plutarch and in the Adventures of Baron Munchausen by Rudolf Erich Raspe.
4 For an overview of these and other interpretative models put forth in the reception of Pellinen’s work, consult the best Finnish account of it so far, the essay by Hannu Launonen, “Kauas, lähelle, silmänkantamattomiin”, Parnasso 1977: 114-121. Also in Mitä lukijan tulee tietää. Esseitä ja kirjoituksia Parnasson vuosikerroista 1951-1981. Ed. Juhani Salokannel. Otava. Keuruu 1981, and online at http://tuli-savu.nihil.fi/pellinen.
5 See Louis Althusser and Etienne Balibar: Reading Capital, transl. Ben Brewster, NLB 1970, pp. 27-32. In this context, it’s enough to retain the Althusserian ideas of “answers given to the questions not posed” and “the cause being present in its effects”. “Symptomatic reading” accepts there always being another text, below – or, as often with Pellinen – on the side of, contained into, the “manifest” text at hand. Also consider Gilles Deleuze, in his Nietzsche et la philosophie, Paris: PUF, 1962, pp. 3- 4: “Un phénomène n’est pas une apparence ni même une apparition, mais un signe, un symptôme qui trouve son sens dans une force actuelle. […] A la dualité métaphysique de l’apparence et de l’essence, et aussi à la relation scientifique de l’effet et de la cause, Nietzsche substitue la corrélation du phénomène et du sens. […] Même la perception dans ses aspects divers est l’expression de forces qui s’approprient la nature.” (my emphasis)
6 Including, perhaps specifically, the Bloomian wrestling with “strong” predecessors with its “resolutions”, cf. the wonderful Pellinenian mislocution, 39-40: “I struggled among creatures of my own size, castle lords, furuncle-faces, robberly inclined, old women, and other such objects of nature.” (my emphasis)
7 Niin päinvastoin kuin kukaan, the title of Pellinen’s 1965 book and a phrase that has become to be seen as an emblem for his poetry as well as for his place and status in Finnish poetry.
8 And note.: “feathers because of many people knowing which are the Indians “. Not “who – or what – the Indians are”. The emptiness of the symbolic order again!
9 The grammatical gap (a “material” symptom of spacing-as-fragmentation) is more striking in the original Finnish phrase: “Tämä nainen oli hameensa vuoksi rakastanut ketään” – “ketään” being the accusative form of “kukaan”, “[no-]one”, a word that would require a separate, accompanying negative, “ei” (“no”). Besides, “ketään” would also read as a (non-standard) possesive form of “kuka” (“who”): “loved her who”.
10 In Jacques Derrida, Acts of Literature, ed. Derek Attridge, New York and London: Routledge 1992, pp. 414- 433 (transl. Nicholas Royle). The following could be a summary of some key themes in Kuuskajaskari: “There would be no contretemps, nor any anachrony, if the separation between monads only disjointed interiorities. Contretemps is produced at the intersection between interior experience (the ‘phenomenology of internal time-consciousness’ or space-consiciousness) and its chronological or topological marks, those which are said to be ‘objective’, ‘in the world’.”
11 Except for the title of the book, referring as it does to an off-hand mention, pages 14-15, of the well-known fortress island outside Rauma at the West Cost of Finland. In fact, this arbitrary reference quite beautifully “reflects” the etymology of the name “Kuuskajaskari”: “kuusi” (spruce) + “kajastaa” (to reflect) + “kari” (rock, scar, shoal).
12 Pellinen’s language has been compared, rightly, I think, to that of the great Finland-Swedish Modernist, Gunnar Björling, see his You Go The Words, transl. by Fredrik Hertzberg, Action Books 2007, and Hertzberg’s Moving Materialities. On Poetic Materiality and Translation, with Special Reference to Gunnar Björling’s Poetry (Åbo: Åbo Akademi University Press, 2002).
13 Gilles Deleuze, op. cit., 107.
14 Niin päinvastoin kuin kukaan (see note 7 above) has more essays in this same hilarious tone. One of them, “Puu”, has been published, in Herbert Lomas’ somewhat normalized translation as “Tree”, in Snow in May. An Anthology of Finnish Writing 1945-1972. Ed. Richard Dauenhauer and Philip Binham. Rutherford: Associated University Presses, 1975.
15 In more than one sense, Kuuskajaskari can be seen as a typical early 60’s work. In the Anglo-American context, I think it could be usefully compared to The Tennis-Court Oath by John Ashbery, also a work obsessed with the themes of dismemberment and initiation – cf., for instance, the poem “Our Youth”.
16 Apart of Marx’s theory on alienation, this formulation carries echoes from St. Paul (“in an enigma by means of a mirror”), yet will, retroactively, fit in the Althusserian theory of ideology as well.