Electric Verses

Etusivu : ¡Bienvenidos! : Jyrki Kiiskinen : What lies behind the familiar windscreen

What lies behind the familiar windscreen

The first writer of ”the 90s poets” to publish his first collection was Jyrki Kiiskinen. Runoilija vaaran rinteellä (A Poet on the Edge) came out in 1989. One might venture to say that the collection introduces a young, angry man, but after the anarchistic and anti-militaristic start the poems find their way to wider frontiers. Concrete imagery and mystical themes maneuver the poems toward the unknown, which is also approached through references to myths of antiquity and the Bible. The collection also contains a number of mundane poems and a long role poem. Already the first collection displays the main characteristics of Kiiskinen’s style: concise expression and acute, even fierce rhythm.

Kiiskinen’s second collection, Sillä ei ole nimeä (It Has No Name, 1990), is a longer and more serene collection than the first one. The speaker of the poems glides through the days and seconds, almost as if on an odyssey, wandering through daily observations, the kitchen, workplace, street and camping site toward himself. Despite the fast-paced rhythm, the verses flow with surprising calmness – one might even talk about narration – rolling irrevocably toward the end, the end that does not exist. Early verses could easily be placed after the last ones and a casual reader would take no note. Thematically the book roams the same ranges as the first one and seems to be using the aesthetics of the everyday to declare that the truth is in the oatmeal. It Has No Name, like the first book, includes allusions to rock lyrics.

The third collection, Silmän kartta (The Map of the Eye, 1992), takes a different course altogether. Short, cryptic poems search for and establish their own truth. The collection includes short, aphoristic strokes that grow into full poems contrary to expections. Although some poems may be seen as hermetic, they still manage to pinch the reader forcing her to read them again. The poems are self-conscious and sometimes they even address themselves.

After a long lyrical pause, during which he finished two novels, Kiiskinen published Kun elän (When I live) in 1999. The collection won the Dancing Bear Award of Yleisradio (equivalent to BBC). Vested with concise form – most stanzas are packed into two or three lines – the long poems draw on the theme of a journey and its dangers as well as a kind of retroactive growing-up story involving a father-son relationship. The central metaphor is a car, because ”the car is a game, / the car is a grave”. The child sees otherwise – a cross turns out to be a sword – and reveals sores on the skin of parenthood, sores that provide the ground for real growth. Imagery of roads and accidents is intertwined with internal visions and insights. In the long wandering poems danger is always present, as it is in life. Something unknown is constantly running abreast with the poems, careful not to show itself, but at least one truth grows out of the verses: no one’s self-containment is eventually enough, we need our neighbors, because no one is free alone.

Sauli Nilsson
translated by Sarka Hantula