Biography Lassi Nummi
Lassi Nummi (born 1928) considers himself a prose-writer who has strayed into poetry.
In a career spanning almost half a century and 25 collections of poetry, his preoccupations, and his central metaphors, have remained constant: landscape, trees, bushes, blades of grass. Interview by Tarja Roinila; poems translated by Herbert Lomas and Anselm Hollo
'During my "social period" I was on the board of the Writers' Union, and its chairman from 1969 to 1972; after that I worked for the Uusi Suomi newspaper and for the PEN Club, whose chairman I was from 1983 to 1988. I was a member of the Bible translation committee for the entire period of its existence, 17 years. A completely different choice would have been to become either a Buddhist or a Christian monk, or then to be a really convinced down-and-out- that might have been the most elegant solution. One could have regulated one's liquid intake, but the freedom of movement would have been pleasant. At the moment I am working out how much of my original conviction is really left. I wonder whether I didn't write my best texts in 1948 and 1949.'
Nummi's first work, Intohimo olemassaoloon, has been hailed by many as a flagship of modernism. From a contemporary perspective, this is surprising, particularly in the light of English-language modernism â most of the poems in the collection are metrical, and they are fairly traditional in their imagery. Nummi says he, too, has wondered about this.
'Intohimo olemassaoloon is definitely more old-fashioned than its reputation. Perhaps I was declared a modernist before there was any real evidence for it. Many people knew about my "peculiar novel", and perhaps my poetry was read through my prose.'
The imagery, free verse and speech-like quality of modernism form only one strand in Nummi's work. His central programme is not so much a formal revolution as the cultivation of numerous different poetic forms and traditions. Romantic pastorals and Chinese poetry are visible, for example, in his collection Vuoripaimen ('Mountain shepherd'), which appeared in the same year as his first work.
'Vuoripaimen, too, was considered surprisingly modern. It is in the Finnish tradition of free metre. In the end, I am a fairly old-fashioned poet.'
For Nummi, the 1950s marked the search for a synthesis between modernism and traditionalism. The monumental collection Tahdon sinun kuulevan ('I want you to hear'), which appeared in 1954, had a mixed reception.
'In some big newspapers it was praised, but my own generation panned it. It was "unsuitably broad"; according to the prevailing aesthetic, a collection of poetry had to be thin and carefully chosen. Perhaps the form of the book as a whole didn't really work, but the fact that I was defending the place of traditional, rhymed form alongside free and modern poetry may have played its part.
'The sequence "Chaconne", which I published in my next collection, Taivaan ja maan merkit ('Marks of sky and earth'), was a clear turning point; I managed to find a temporary solution to the the problem of modernism and tradition, and the poem also became a synthesis of my world-view up to then. "Chaconne" is written in the form of a stream-of-consciousness monologue, and it has strongly romantic elements.'
'Chaconne' was written in four days, something which surprised even the poet himself. Nummi, who generally characterises himself as 'deliberate and purposeful', is nevertheless cautious in speaking of inspiration.
Nummi has a living relationship with metre, and finding a new metre has often been the prime force behind a poem or collection.
'That is what happened with my first poem with "free hexameters", which I wrote in 1956; in it, the metre came to me all at once, as a gift. The poem was not published until Portaikko pilvissĂ¤ ('A stairway in the clouds'), as its opening poem, in 1992, but it is still an anomaly in my work as a whole: it is a visionary, surrealist poem that somehow horrifies me, but may â who knows â be a prologue to what I write in the future. That is, if I go on writing poetry; it may be that the future is nothing but prose....'
Diversity is visible in Nummi's poetry both in the richness of literary taditions and on the religious level. His nature poetry is characterised by pantheism, his love poetry addresses both the loved one and divinity. Wonderment, opening up to the world, is at one extreme the anxiety brought by emptiness and at the other a visionary moment of meaning.
'I suppose I must be a fairly simple person, since the wonder of existence continues to amaze me. It always seems to be the same basic experience, even though there are differences in tone and aroma.
'The "Chaconne" sequence is also a synthesis in the religious sense. The charismatic Christian background of my parents is present, but "Lord Christ" comes from Lorca: through Jarno Pennanen's Lorca translations I realised that I could put it into a poem. A Christian interpretation is present in my texts as one possibility. There is much between the dogmatic Christ and the humanised Christ: teacher, proclaimer of love, victim, crucifix. I think the cross is present in many of my trees, although I do not sense that image in the trees of Maisema.'
Opera (ĂŽn finlandezÄ)
Intohimo olemassaoloon (Runoja) Otava 1949.
Maisema. (Romaani) Otava 1949.
Vuoripaimen (Runoja) Otava 1949.
Ristikot. Novelleja, kuvia, balladi. Otava 1952.
Viha. (Romaani) Otava 1952.
Tahdon sinun kuulevan. NeljĂ¤ sikermĂ¤Ă¤. Lasinen kirja. Musta kirja. Hopeinen kirja. Vaskinen kirja. (Runoja) Otava 1954.
Taivaan ja maan merkit (Runoja) Otava 1956.
Runoja. (Esitys Lassi Nummi) Otavan kirjallinen Ă¤Ă¤nilevy 22. Otava 1961.
Kuusimittaa ja muita sĂ¤keitĂ¤ (Runoja) Otava 1963.
Arpakuutiot. 1966. (Runoja) (Tervehdys Helsingin Yliopiston valtiotieteellisen tiedekunnan promootiossa 25.5.1966 vihittĂ¤ville valtiotieteen maistereille.)
KeskipĂ¤ivĂ¤, delta (Runoja) Otava 1967.
Linna vedessĂ¤ (Runoja) Otava 1975.
LĂ¤hdĂśssĂ¤ tĂ¤nĂ¤Ă¤n (Runoja) Otava 1977.
Sana tuli kiveksi (EsittĂ¤jĂ¤ Eeva-Kaarina Volanen), NĂ¤in olen ajatellut. (EsittĂ¤jĂ¤ Lassi Nummi) Otavan kirjallinen Ă¤Ă¤nilevy 78. Otava 1978.
Aika on virtaava vesi Osuuspankkien keskuspankki 1977. (Kannessa Juhlaruno kolme neljĂ¤nnesvuosisataa jatkuneen suomalaisen osuuspankkitoiminnan kunniaksi Suomen itsenĂ¤isyyden juhlavuonna.)
Runot 1947-1977 (Runoja) Otava 1978.
Heti, melkein heti (Runoja) Otava 1980.
Maisema ja muuta proosaa Otava 1980.
Kaksoiskuva (Runoja) Otava 1982.
Hiidentyven (Runoja) Otava 1984.
Matkalla niityn yli (Runoja) Otava 1986.
Joulukonsertto (Runoja ja puhetta joulun aikaan) Otava 1987.
Maailma, yhĂ¤ ' (Runoja) Otava 1988.
Karu laidunrinne (Runoja) Otava 1989.
Requiem (Tekstit Leonid Bashmakovin sĂ¤vellykseen. Kantaesitys Tampereen SĂ¤vel -juhlissa kesĂ¤kuussa 1989)
Requiem (Runoja) Otava 1990.
Requiem (ĂĂ¤nite) Otavan Ă¤Ă¤nikirja. Otava 2005.
Portaikko pilvissĂ¤. (Runoja) Otava 1992.
De rerum natura, eli, NĂ¤mĂ¤ olemisen muodot ja lajit. (Jyrki Haikosen 60-vuotispĂ¤ivĂ¤n onnittelurunoelma.) EVA 1995.
Hengitys yĂśssĂ¤ (Runoja) Otava 1995.
SeitsemĂ¤n kirjaa (Runot 1978-1995) Otava 1998.
IsoisĂ¤n runot ja muita. Otava 1999.
VĂ¤limeri. Runoja tunteville. Otava 2000.
Maurille. (Pertti Niemisen ja Ilpo Tiihosen kanssa) Lastensuojelun keskusliitto 2003.
Olemassa toisillemme. Runoja tunteville. Otava 2003.