Sirkka Turkka
(Finland, 1939)   
Sirkka Turkka

Sirkka Turkka often seems to have more of a soft spot for animals than for people. People can be arrogant, or worse; people can hurt you in their lovelessness, or even their love. So you better keep your distance from them, just to be sure they don’t.

‘I keep pain at bay. I don’t let it come near me,’ writes Sirkka Turkka, at a moment, no doubt, when it is already too late. The collection containing this line opens with the sentence: ‘Letters I never answer, let alone that I should start a correspondence myself. It never pays, it just consumes energy.’ A poet who cannot be bothered to write? So what about all those poems of longing and loss – even pain? Poetry, after all, is there to be read. Here we see the paradox apparent in someone who expresses her deepest feelings and doubts in poetry, yet doing all she can to prevent those around to her to come close. ‘I am a solar system by myself, I am completely independent, if I want to be.’ Independence may be the most characteristic feature of Turkka’s poetry. Since her debut collection Huone avaruudessa (‘A Room in Space’) she has published some ten volumes of poetry that have ensured her a unique place in Finnish letters. She has won important awards for her work: in 1987 she received the Finlandia Prize for her collection Tule takaisin, pikku Sheba (‘Come Back, Little Sheba’), and last year she was awarded the Eino Leino Prize for her entire oeuvre.

Turkka’s poetry defies classification as part of some trend or development. She has a voice all her own. Her style has a natural directness and coolness that is alien to literary affectation and false sentimentality, and which, while seeming to create a distance at first, soon takes us in. Turkka has worked with horses and other animals. Animals have no use for fancy language, they respond to simple, direct words, straight from the heart. No use pretending. This is the way her poetry works. I should not be surprised if she tried out her new poems on her animals first.

© Adriaan van der Hoeven (Translated by Ko Kooman)

[Sirkka Turkka took part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 2001. This text was written on that occasion.]


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