TRAVELING LIGHT: The Selected Poems ofKirsti Simonsuuri won THE FINNISH LITERATURE CENTREs Translation Prize for2001.
Finns are usual people, even somewhat exotic for Europeans, as are their distant linguistic relatives, the Hungarians. Their language is Ural-Altaic, not Indo-European, and unrelated to any other group, except perhaps Korean, and remotely indeed at that. Their high Northern land is forest, filled with thousands of lakes, and frozen tundra, unlike that of the Magyars, who inhabit a great central European plain ringed by mountains on the North, South and at their eastern borders, stretching East of the Danube,. The Finns are also adiffident people, appearing silent and shy, speaking low, and stepping back to leave a wide space about them even in conversation. In short, they are unknown to the West, almost mysterious, as anyone who knows who has landed in Helsinki and found the city utterly deserted during the Summer Solstice. Kirsti Simonsuuris poetry exemplifies Finlands traits. The reader will hear in these selected poems from decades of writing a private, meditative, reflective voice, and sense a refined sensibility, one that sees clearly the world and itself, but in which emotion is almost all hidden in the subtext, although radiating its warmth in the invisible parts of the spectrum. Yet, a Classicist by training and profession, she keeps her line simple and clear, forming her poems as lightly and completely as the texts of the early Greek lyric poets. Her poetry is a fine contrast to much of the immense noise of contemporary American poetry, which is sometimes deafening, often obvious in its flat, verbosely plain-spoken. One must listen attentively and closely to Kessler, whose subtlety offers the reward of a poetry that for all its delicacy is anything but fragile or slight.