This autumn, Waterloo Press publishes A Sure Star in a Moonless Night, a selection of poems by the Finnish writer Sirkka Turkka (b. 1939), translated by FELT member Emily Jeremiah. The book was published with the support of the Finnish Literature Exchange FILI.
British readers now have the chance to access Turkka’s work, which has long been acclaimed in Finland. Her voice is strange yet sure, unnerving yet compelling: ‘With all due respect, life is as simple as an apple or a stripe in an old shawl and the houses look at this world either with glad or sad eyes’. Of course. Many of the poems are also deeply mournful, meditating upon loss and pain in a tough, unsparing fashion: ‘I’m bleeding; thus is the human nailed to life; and the heart, a blind mole, has to shovel a path through so many deaths’.
The poems feel utterly natural, although they are artful. Turkka has worked with horses and with books (as a stable master and as a librarian), and her intimate knowledge of both can be seen at work in her texts: alert but considered, vital but sophisticated.
This new selection of work by Turkka in English translation, which includes poems published between 1973 and 1993, grants a glimpse of ‘a sure star in a moonless night’, as Turkka herself puts it in one poem: that is, of a unique and shining talent.
A poor dog has little to give to the moon. No luggage, no lighted rooms, no compartments hidden in the heart. It has only its heart. Only a bark, long and narrow like a tunnel, released from its brown muzzle. Like a small abandoned ice-cube it zings from shore to shore. Strange, how the heart can be carelessly left behind in bed-linen, on long, endless streets, in dust behind curtains or in a glass, like teeth. Dogs ceased talking and received in place of a mouth an inky line, but man lost his heart; his ear can no longer pick out songs from inside a tree. He swears criss-cross on his heart, he thinks it’s a distant island, or then he looks for it in his trousers; in many, the heart looks like a bottom and vice versa. But in dogs it is where it should be: just after the muzzle, boulder-like, baby-faced and willing.
From ‘The Night Opens Like Corn’ (1978)