Sirkka Turkka

A Sure Star in a Moonless Night (2013)


Translated by Emily Jeremiah

The work of the Finnish poet Sirkka Turkka (b. 1939) is dottily profound: loopy, playful, mournful and piercing, all at once. Hers is a unique and compelling voice, channelled here by prize-winning translator Emily Jeremiah, who has selected a range of poems published between 1973 and 1993 for this revelatory volume. The poems are anarchic but sophisticated, alert but considered. Profoundly odd, sad and wild, they are also authoritative, hilarious and finely wrought. Teeming with arresting images and insights — the heart is a blind mole; life is as simple as an apple or a stripe in an old shawl — they surprise and move, as Turkka’s vitality and generosity leap off the pages.

ISBN: ISBN 978-1-906742-62-1 Categories: ,

Praise and Poems

Sirkka Turkka’s work is as exciting as it is mysterious. Emily Jeremiah’s translation is, so far as a non-Finnish speaker can tell, excellent. Especially in poetry, where tone is so subtle, a translator the reader trusts is a matter of life and death.  Selima Hill

Sirkka Turkka’s poetry immerses the non-Finnish reader in the sublime landscape so often sought from Nordic literature and art: a world of forest cabins, wood smoke, bilberries and lakes, all subtly lit by the shifting seasons. But this assured selection of translations also glimmers with hints of the poet’s ambivalent relationship to notions of ‘home’. And, like an ice field punctuated with the first bright hints of spring, her poetry is enlivened by an absurd, riddling humour, and a playful affection for animals — in particular dogs, who lope like comic psychopomps through her later work. Turkka, a major poet, dips her pen in the inks and colours of her native land in order to draw her own unique vision of the human condition. Naomi Foyle

In Emily Jeremiah’s faithful and sensitive translations, Sirkka Turkka’s poems sound as natural to me as the Finnish I grew up hearing but now only semi-speak and half-understand. I welcome these poems of solitude in wilderness, full of heart, intelligence and surprising juxtapositions such as ‘a pile of mussel shells … covers open, the muskrat’s whole library’. Turkka’s poems display tough, imaginative wit, as when she observes with a quirk that ‘a short, pale winter day can fit / into the tip of a dog’s tail, say’. Jeremiah hears Turkka’s sound-patterns in Finnish and echoes them in English whenever possible — ‘a small jingle in a dog’s leash tinkled like sleep’s sleigh bell’ — and she enables us to feel ‘somewhere deep in the chest…a crumb of cross-heavy love’.  Nancy Mattson


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