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This review is taken from PN Review 83, Volume 18 Number 3, January - February 1992.

FROM WINTER TO AUTUMN Paavo Haavikko, Selected Poems, translated by Anselm Hollo (Carcanet) £18.95

Previous to Herbert Lomas's recent enterprising anthology for Bloodaxe, 'poetry in Finnish' in practice meant the poems of Paavo Haavikko. By a forunate coincidence, just as Lomas obliges us to revise our view, so Anselm Hollo offers us the opportunity - with a selection five times larger than his pioneer out-of-print (1974) Penguin - to confirm it, or at least to consider the matter with a wide-angle lens. For a critical perspective, given Hollo's mysterious reluctance to supply an introduction, the old selection still provides some useful pointers; but Lomas is so thorough, so adroit in fashioning judgements that are helpful, and so vigorous in praise and dispraise, that it would be foolish not to turn to him first. Of Haavikko he writes:

He does not attempt the symbolic sweep, musical structure, cinematic montage, or dense learned allusiveness of Eliot … His favourite form is the sequence: short, condensed, aphoristic, paradoxical, often humorous though melancholy organizations of abstract, contradictory pseudo-statements. The compression creates puzzles, but they are soluble …

There is pessimism and depression at the basis of Haavikko's work … yet there is an appetite for life in his work, too, a concern, that is the reverse of pessimistic …

… the poems, implicitly and explicitly, promote formality in personal life, art and government, and this must surely be prophylactic as well as aesthetic. He likes some of the ways things happen in nature - slowly, recurrently. He distrusts size - big ...


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