THE PARADOX OF ME AND YOU
Mirkka Rekola (born 1931) is a true modernist whose extensive work, dating back to the 1950’s, forms a solid whole. The milieu in her poems is generally urban, with beaches and streets, but the human is always the central figure in them.
The fact that Rekola’s poetry is often considered ‘difficult’ may stem from the extreme conciseness and the ambiguity of her expression. A simple line can be read in many different ways. In one of her most well-known poems there is the following line: “I love you, / so I shall tell everyone”. A private confession of love is also universal. The poet manages to draw attention to the language by playing with it and stretching it beyond given boundaries. The multiplicity of meanings in Rekola’s poetry leads to various paradoxes, but these are always illusory: different interpretations are of equal value, thus they do not cancel each other out; on the contrary, the poems call into question opposition and dualism.
To offset the apparent ‘difficulty’ of Rekola’s work, her poems are generally short, only a few lines in length, and follow a clear structure. The language in these poems is classically pure but does not deviate from everyday usage. At times the poems take their starting point from a concrete observation, then widen to deal with more abstract themes. The world in these poems opens up both inwardly and outwardly yet these opposing directions never appear to be in conflict with one another. Rekola herself has stated that: “It would seem that I do not have much use for my imagination, reality is every bit as fantastic. You just have to think it up. But then again there is no need to think up anything more for it.”
The speaker of Rekola’s poems is rarely alone. The ‘I’ of the poems is generally paired with an equal, ‘you’. Where there is the ‘I’ there is also the ‘you’. These personae do not only appear as separate entities, rather they test the boundaries between subject and object. The ‘I’ and the ‘you’ may be strangers to one another, they may be absent from one another, yet the connection between them often expands into a unity of sorts.
A deep sense of humanity is at the foundation of Rekola’s work. In her poems even nature is metaphorically defined in terms of humans and in relation to humans. It is difficult to apply sociological or feminist readings to these poems if one wishes to do them justice. Indeed, the poet was harshly criticised during the 1960’s and 70’s for not taking any political stance, as was the trend at the time. It is only between the lines that one can find irony and a delicate critique of society and even then this is never the focus of the poem.
Mirkka Rekola is also considered an innovator in the art of Finnish aphorism. Indeed, it is impossible to draw clear divisions between poem, prose poem and aphorism in her work. Throughout her oeuvre the poet has strived to construct her own personal philosophy. She has been called a visionary poet and an ‘empirical mystic’ who describes her inner visions through concrete observations of the world around her. The influence of Christianity is also palpable in the thought content and symbolism of her works. Rekola does not present us with ready-made realities, rather she questions given truths by showing the reader not divergence but congruence and equivalence in her language as much as in the images she depicts.
translated by David Hackston
Vedessä palaa (1954), Tunnit (1957), Syksy muuttaa linnut (1961), Ilo ja epäsymmetria (1965), Anna päivän olla kaikki (1968), Muistikirja (1969), Minä rakastan sinua, minä sanon sen kaikille (1972), Tuulen viime vuosi (1974), Kohtaamispaikka vuosi (1977), Maailmat lumen vesistöissä (1978), Runot 1954-1978 (1979), Kuutamourakka (1981), Puun syleilemällä (1983), Silmänkantama (1984), Tuoreessa muistissa kevät (1987), Maskuja (1987), Kuka lukee kanssasi (1990), Maa ilmaan heitetty (1995), Taivas päivystää (1996), Virran molemmin puolin (1997), Muistinavaruus (essays, 2000), 88 poems (2000), Valekuun reitti (2004), Vesi on maailman muisti (2007), Esittävästä todellisuudesta (essays, 2007)