THE REVERENT WITNESS OF MEANINGFUL MOMENTS
Jouni Inkala’s debut on the Finnish literature scene was very impressive indeed. His first volume of poetry, Tässä sen reuna (1992) (‘Here its edge’), was awarded the J. H. Erkko Prize for a first published work and the volume was also a nominee for the Finlandia Prize that year. It is a very earthy work and makes many fresh observations about nature and everyday life in an often searing way. Particular attention is paid to the way in which nature and humans, past and future interact with each other as if only this very moment existed, a moment in which everything is present. The anthropomorphism of nature and objects – dust, granite, the maple leaf, pylons and armchairs are given a particularly active role – shows the world in a new and touching way, and there is often a sense of magic and of weighty existential feeling involved in the overall experience of these poems.
Much literature discusses the idea of ‘otherness’, yet in his poems Jouni Inkala proves that we are always part of a greater, intentional order, for which we should rejoice and give thanks. Spirituality can always be heard far off between the lines in these poems, not in a fundamentalist way but formed out of a series of perceptions, as silent proof. Slow-paced long sentences freely assume their place, often cut short by lines and stanzas. In a very idiosyncratic way, adverbs gradually become nouns and even subjects in their own right. There are many short poems in the collection, but something essentially perceptive and sensual is always crystallised within them. In addition to the speaker of the poem, another figure – possibly a lover – also appears now and then and is brought together with and becomes one with the speaker.
The titles of the next two collections, Huonetta ja sukua (1994) (‘Room and family’) and Pyhien seura (1996) (‘The Company of Saints’), refer to the Bible and to a religious tradition, but employ largely the same material as in his debut: the speaker in a sense ‘filters’ the surrounding world, quietly interpreting it, and often speaking to him- or herself. In particular, the former of the two collections is characterised by long, open and closed sentences, the language defies meaning and makes itself the subject. This demands a great deal of patience from the reader.
In the collection Sille joka jää (1998) (‘For the one who remains’) Biblical events and religious themes in fact form a framework to which the poems can refer. The voice in these poems is nonetheless the same as before: there are few dramatic external events, rather internal and external visions succeed in stopping time and in doing so allow language and thoughts to assume their own paths. The collection also makes much use of epic material.
In the volume Autiomaaretki (2000) (‘Journey through the desert’), Inkala has entirely renounced the conditional: the poems take place in the present and their tone is frank. Transitions in these poems are more rapid than before yet the reader easily manages to follow the thread of things. Leaving behind the world’s superfluous verbosity has clearly brought a perceptive freedom to the poems. The poems, which take place in an instrument shop, the Viking Museum, on a winter’s evening or in Finnmark in Norway, seem to have returned both to the mood of his debut and stylistically to traditional Finnish modernism.
translated by David Hackston
Tässä sen reuna (1992), Runon kieli - runon maailma (non-fiction, 1993), Huonetta ja sukua (1994), Pyhien seura (1996), Sille joka jää (1998), Autiomaaretki (2000), Kirjoittamaton (2002), Sarveisaikoja (2005), Minuutin ja sen puolikkaan laajenevassa universumissa (2007)