Saturday, 23 March 2013

Tua Forsström's 'The snow whirls over the courtyard's roses'

Rose photo by cbransto


I thought that I might be done with posting cold snowy poems for a while, but today it snowed in London, and apparently it was the coldest March day on record. So this poem still seems very appropriate, as well as interesting.

I am going to be very lazy and just say that the accompanying article by Carol Rumens on this link in the Guardian is informative and useful, and I have little to add to it regarding the poem. Personally I am interested in the fact that the author is a Swedish-speaking Finnish poet, given my partly Finnish background (my mother is a Finnish-speaking Finn, although due to her terrifying Nordic mastery of several languages, she speaks Swedish reasonably well too). Finland is an officially bilingual country, but not everyone knows this and it is occasionally difficult to convince people that a writer in Swedish may be a Finn. I have encountered this confusion with the work of Tove Jansson, the Finnish author who wrote her wonderful Moomin books in Swedish. As I recall, one very reputable publisher recently reprinted the Moomin books with a comment on the dust jacket that the author was from Sweden.

Anyway, I suspect that Swedish translates more effectively into English than Finnish does, as the two languages are far more closely related - although I speak no Swedish, so I'm just guessing at that. I have read some Finnish poetry translated into English - sadly, my Finnish was never good, but I still know a lot of words and I understand the shape of the language, and so I can discern a certain amount from facing translations. I've had the impression that Finnish poetry is difficult to translate simply from the fact that Finnish is an unearthly language, and most translations I've read have sounded prosaic to the point of being clunky. (Although I think the language has a prosaic quality, too. Hard to explain.)

It may also be interesting to compare 'The snow whirls over the courtyard's roses' to Louis MacNeice's 'Snow', with its similar central imagery.

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