Leevi and the Leavings, “Dog Paddle”

Leevi and the Leavings, “Käsipohjaa”

Mä tulen aamulla takaisin nääntyneenä tripistä.
Ei mua unessa kiinni kukaan saa.
Ilman kännykkää yksin tänne jään.

En kovin kauas uinutkaan, ei en saa sukeltaa.
Mä uin vain suuren kiven taa piiloon pahaa maailmaa.
Ja mä uin vain käsipohjaa.

Ei niistä erota pitkätukkahipistä, mies kun on mitätön muilta mitoiltaan.
Ilman kännykkää yksin tänne jään.

En kovin kauas uinutkaan, ei en saa sukeltaa.
Mä uin vain suuren kiven taa piiloon pahaa maailmaa.
Ja mä uin vain käsipohjaa.

Saila, tyttö naapurin. Bailaa aina muita rankemmin.
Se antoi suudella heti kun sille tarjos libistä.
Nyt sitä kadulla tuskin tunnistaa.
Ilman kännykkää yksin tänne jään.

En kovin kauas uinutkaan, ei en saa sukeltaa.
Mä uin vain suuren kiven taa piiloon pahaa maailmaa.
Ja mä uin vain käsipohjaa.

Saila, tyttö naapurin. Bailaa aina muita rankemmin.
Mut jos tää unta on edelleen, varovasti nipistä.
Ei kukaan soittele mulle kuitenkaan.
Ilman kännykkää yksin tänne jään.


Leevi and the Leavings, “Dog Paddle”

I come back in the morning, exhausted from a trip.
No one can catch me when I’m asleep.
I’m gonna stay here alone without a cell phone.

I didn’t swim too far, and I don’t know how to dive.
I just swam behind a big rock to hide from the wicked world.
And I only do the dog paddle.

When a man is devoid of other dimensions, he doesn’t differ from those long-haired hippies.
I’m gonna stay here alone without a cell phone.

I didn’t swim too far, and I don’t know how to dive.
I just swam behind a big rock to hide from the wicked world.
And I only do the dog paddle.

Saila, the girl next door. Always party harder than anyone else.
She would let you kiss her as soon as you offered her Liebfraumilch.
Now you can barely recognize her on the street.
I’m gonna stay here alone without a cell phone.

I didn’t swim too far, and I don’t know how to dive.
I just swam behind a big rock to hide from the wicked world.
And I only do the dog paddle.

Saila, the girl next door. Always party harder than anyone else.
But if this is still a dream, pinch me gingerly.
No one calls me anyway.
I’m gonna stay here alone without a cell phone.

Music and lyrics: Gösta Sundqvist. Source of original Finnish lyrics: Fandom. Thanks to Sharapov for the friendly reminder. Photo and translation by Living in FIN.

Eeva Kilpi, “February”

On irrottava lapsistaan, sanoo isoäiti.
Se on vaikeampaa kuin vanhemmista irtoaminen,
koska vastuu siirtyy eteenpäin
ja kulkee mukana hautaan saakka.

On suojeltava lapsuutta lapsissaan,
heidän viattomuuttaan
joka vajoaa aikuisuuden kerrosten alle.

Siellä se kuitenkin yhä on,
syvällä, ahtaalla ja piilossa,
kunnes sen kohtaa taas
Silloin on suojeltava heitä,
sillä äkkiä hekin vain pyörivät maailmalla
ikäistensä kanssa

Siellä se kuitenkin yhä on,
syvällä, ahtaalla ja piilossa,
kunnes sen kohtaa taas
Silloin on suojeltava heitä,
sillä äkkiä hekin vain pyörivät maailmalla
ikäistensä kanssa

ja sinä ihmettelet
mihin aika meni,
miksi he muuttuivat
kun itse pysyit samana:

Eikä kukaan tiedä
että tähystäjä on talvisodan aikainen pikkutyttö,
jolle yhä tapahtuu mullistavia asioita,
jonka maailma yhä järkkyy.

– Minä virtailen, sanoi äiti.
– Minäkin virtaan, äiti,
ees ja taas.



You must let go of your children, Grandma says.
It is harder than letting go of your parents,
since the responsibility carries on,
going with you all the way to the grave.

You must protect your children’s childishness,
their innocence,
submerged beneath the layers of adulthood.

But it is still there,
deep, cramped, and hidden,
until you encounter it again
in your grandchildren.
Then you have to protect them,
because suddenly they’re just spinning around the world, too,
along with their agemates.

And you wonder
where the time went,
why they changed,
when you stayed the same:

a child observing life on earth
through the periscope of her old age.

And no one knows
the lookout is a little girl from the Winter War,
immune to aging,
to whom devastating things are still happening,
whose world is still shaking.

“I’m flowing,” said Mother.
“I’m flowing, too, Mother,
back and forth.”

Source: Eeva Kilpi, Kuolinsiivous (WSOY, 2012). Translation and photo by Living in FIN

Eeva Kilpi, “Suddenly Passion Mounts the Day”

Äkkiä intohimo astuu päivän
ja ne kohoavat siivilleen
toisiinsa kietoutuneina
ja siitä liitosta synnyin minä kuin metsänelävä,
vapaa mutta uhanalainen,
kevyt ja unohdettua nautintoa täynnä,
talviuni jäsenissä
yhtaikaa levon ja rasituksen kaltaisena.

Kiitos ettet soita.
Kiitos ettet kirjoita.
Kiitos ettet toivo tapaamista.
Kiitos että maltat mielesi.



Suddenly passion mounts the day
and they rise on their wings,
And from that union, I was born, like a forest creature,
free but endangered,
airy and replete with forgotten pleasure,
the limbs in hibernation,
reposed and straining at the same time.

Thank you for not calling.
Thank you for not writing.
Thank you for not wishing to meet.
Thank you for changing your mind.


Source: Eeva Kilpi, Animalia (WSOY, 1987). Translation and photo by Living in FIN

Eeva Kilpi, “One Morning the Earth”

Eräänä aamuna maapallo havahtui ja ravisti ihmiset harteiltaan kuin syöpäläiset, kyllänsä saaneena, myös maailmanparantajat. He roiskahtivat avaruuteen kuin täit tai tähdet. Muutaman itsetietoisen poliitikon se tappoi kynnellään, muutamia porvareita se potkaisi persuksiin ja muutaman rähisevän radikaalin se puhalsi ilmaan kuin höyhenen. Ja kun se oli taas pitkästä aikaa vapautunut näistä herhiläisistä, se huokasi syvään, asettui lepäämään ja alkoi kukkia joka rakosestaan.


One morning the earth, full of days, awoke suddenly and shook the people from its shoulders like vermin, including the reformers. They splattered into outer space like parasites or stars. It clawed a few conceited politicians to death, kicked a few bourgeois in the backside, and blew a few brawling radicals into the atmosphere like feathers. When a long time had passed since it liberated itself from these hornets, it sighed deeply and settled down to rest, and its every crack and crevice began to blossom.

Source: Eeva Kilpi, Laulu rakkaudesta ja muita runoja (WSOY, 1972). Translation and photo by Living in FIN

What’s in a Name?

ahmadResearcher Akhlaq Ahmad was surprised how much a name affects a job search. Photo by Henrietta Hassinen. Courtesy of Yle

A Finnish Name Gets You a Job
Yle Uutiset Selkosuomeksi
October 21, 2019

In Finland, it is easier to find a job for applicants who have Finnish names, according to a new study.

The study was carried out by Akhlaq Ahmad, a sociologist at the University of Helsinki. He sent out 5,000 job applications under names in different languages. The names were not real but invented.

The applications were filled out so the job seekers looked equally good. They also all spoke Finnish well.

The differences were great, Ahmad explained. For example, it was much harder to get a job with the name Abdirashid Mohamed than with the name Aino Hämäläinen.

In the study, companies asked more job seekers with Finnish names to interviews. Nearly 400 out of 1,000 applicants with Finnish names received invitations.

Applicants received fewer invitations to job interviews if they had Iraqi or Somali names. 134 out of 1,000 job seekers who had Iraqi names received invitations.

Somali applicants got the fewest callbacks of all. Only 99 applicants out of 1,000 with Somali names were invited to job interviews.

Akhlaq Ahmad was surprised the differences among different groups were so large.

Thanks to Tiina Pasanen for the heads-up. Translated by Living in FIN

Insane Clown Posse

insane clown posse siteA scary clown has struck again in Vuoksenniska, this time on the bike path at the end of Retikankuja. Photo by Minna Mäkinen. Courtesy of Uutisvuoksi

Clown Character Shows Up in Vuoksenniska in Broad Daylight, Scares Two Schoolboys
Clown Was Lurking in Bushes on Bike Path Leading to Lakasentie 
Minna Mäkinen
September 30, 2019

A character wearing a clown mask has struck again in Vuoksenniska. This time the character appeared in broad daylight—on Sunday sometime after one in the afternoon.

The victims of the intimidation were schoolboys out riding their bicycles.

“The boys came home out of breath and told me the clown had been in the bushes. He had come out of the bushes to chase them. He was not able to overtake the boys since they pedaled as quickly away from the spot as they could,” said Tanja Jaatinen, mother of one of the boys.

According to the boys, the clown character was holding a knife.

The incident occurred at the end of Retikankuja on the bike path leading to Lakasenpelto.

Frightening Encounter
The encounter with the clown frightened the second-graders.

“I was freaked out, too,” Jaatinen said.

She immediately reported the incident to emergency services.

“A police patrol has been to the spot,” she said.

The police situation center confirmed their officers had gone to Vuoksenniska, but no one was found at the scene of the incident.

Last Incident Was in Early September
According to Jaatinen, it was especially unfortunate the clown character was scaring little children, who until then had ventured to move around by themselves in the daytime.

The last time a clown struck was in Vuoksenniska on September 3. The target of the intimidation was 17-year-old Imatra resident Samu Kemppi.

Kemppi was biking toward the underpass that runs under Saimaanhovintie in Vuoksenniska when a person dressed in a clown suit jumped from the hillside in front of him.

saimaanhovintieThe site of the September 2019 incident. Image courtesy of Google Maps

Kemppi called emergency services, but when police arrived at the scene they could find no trace of the perpetrator.

The police have been investigating the incident in early September as illegal intimidation.

A person in a clown suit also made headlines in Imatra in October 2017 when they intimidated a young girl in Vuoksenniska. The police then also failed to catch the perpetrator.

Translated by Living in FIN

International Translation Day: Hannu Salakka



Today, September 30, is International Translation Day.

I celebrated International Translation Day in 2016 by sending a virtual love letter to the great Finnish poet and writer Eeva Kilpi, who published two new books this year at the ripe young age of ninety-one.

It was a chance encounter with Kilpi’s poems that inspired me to take the rash step of translating from Finnish to English in the first place. And, although I am often distracted by my real job (translating from Russian to English) and my dangerously job-like hobby (translating articles about Russian grassroots politics and culture), I have found the time, since I first happened upon Kilpi’s poems (in a hut by the side of a road to a paradise-like place in the countryside, where, as I learned last year, Kilpi’s father once had a summer cottage) to translate many more poems by her and let other chance encounters lead me to other great Finnish poets.

Aside from Kilpi, the Finnish poet who has made himself most at home in my life has been Hannu Salakka (1955–2003). While Kilpi is known to a good number of readers outside of Finland through translations of her novels, memoirs, stories, and poems, and was, apparently, nominated for a Nobel Prize, Salakka (whose collected poems, published in 1990, is two hundred pages longer than Kilpi’s collected poems, published in 2000) is now, sixteen years after his death, nearly as obscure in his homeland as he is abroad.

Although both poets share a certain aesthetic sensibility and a deceptively simple approach to writing poems, Salakka’s work has never been translated into English either at all or in any noticeable quantities. This is a shame because his poems are every bit as wry, profound, humane, and therapeutic as Kilpi’s are, although they are probably a good deal bleaker.

Or, perhaps, they seem that way to me because Salakka died at the age of forty-eight, four years younger than I am now, and because his obscurity seems irrefutable, a sad fact brought home to me by the number of times I have found his books abandoned and offered for a pittance in secondhand stores and piled up, so I imagine, in the backrooms of the booksellers from whom I have bought the books of his I did not find at random in Finland’s ubiquitous secondhand stores.

As I did three years ago on this day, I have chosen a poem from Salakka’s collected poems using a random number generator. I could not have chosen a better poem to illustrate his gifts as a poet. The poem also revolves around a beautifully apt metaphor for what it is poets and translators do when they are at their best: they set words free to soar and sing.



Löysin maasta linnun,
elävän, harmaan pienen linnun,
aran kuin vain lintu voi olla arka.
Silitin sitä ja puhuin sille,
vaikka näin sen sitä pelkäävän.
Halusin sen laulavan,
mutta se vapisi ja pysyi mykkänä.
Mutta kun avasin käteni,
se lensi,
lensi yhä kauemmas ja korkeammalle.

Ja vielä vuosienkin jälkeen
kuulen lintujen yhä laulavan.

* * * * *


I found a bird on the ground.
A little gray bird, it was alive,
and bashful as only a bird could be.
I stroked it and spoke to it,
though I saw this made it afraid.
I wanted it to sing,
but it shivered and kept mum.
When I opened my hand, however,
it flew,
it flew ever farther and higher.

And even years later
I can still hear the birds singing.

Source: Hannu Salakka, Kuin unessa viiypen (Helsinki: Otava, 1990), p. 122. Photo and translation by Living in FIN. This translation is dedicated to V., my comrade in life, translating, and Finnish. It also happens to be her name day today.

Jorma Etto, “Othello”



Lapsesta asti rakastin sanoja,
sanoja kunniotin, ihailin sanoja,
neitseitä ne olivat, jaloja niin:
desdemonaksi kuvittelin substaantiivit.
Nyt inhat, irstaat, yököttävät kaikki nuo,
monien siitämät, silti marrot,
käytetyt portot joita rakastan.
Oi Aika, jalo ystäväni, kivesi kokoat
ja heität kasvoilleni. Siitä nämä uurteet.
Helpoksi kaiken teet,
pehmeiksi päivät sanoja maat. Hyi!
Ken on se Jago? Se sietäis tappaa
sijasta desdemonan, lemmittyni.
Nuo viisaat kaikki, nuo luulevaiset kirjat,
minulle kuiskuttivat ja minä uskoin:
syvälle päästäkseen on surmattava puhtain,
joksikin mahdutettava mihin ei se mahdu,
myrkkynsä sekoitettava, juotava myrkky,
verensä musteena haavoistaan vuodatettava
palstoille pohjattomille. Oi viisaus, Jago,
Kristuksen minusta naulitsit ristiin
että päästäisit minusta pois Barabbaan.
Olen levittänyt desdemonani pellavalle kuin uhrin
(mutta naarmuakaan ei saanut lumenpuhdas,
alabasterinhieno), ja kynttilän, jo läikkyvän,
puhalsin sammuksiin (oi sammu, tuli, sammu!)
Oi kuinka ruusun taitettuaan sen saisi
elämään uudestaan ja kukkimaan? Ei.
Se kuihtuu, kuolee. Minä myös.
Liikaa rakastin, nyt suurmaani lemmin,
en edes luita desdemoman saata unohtaa,
puhtaita niin, niin hentoja: sanoja suloisia suutelin
kun niiltä hengen vein. Ja tuhkasi, oi desdemona,
nyt sormin tunnottomin, jäykin,
riveiksi näiksi kylvän tälle aukealle.

* * * * *

I loved words ever since I was a kid.
I respected words, I admired them.
They were virgins, so noble.
I imagined nouns as Desdemonas.
All of them are now wretched, wanton, nauseating,
Beget by many yet barren,
The secondhand harlots I love.
O time, my noble friend, you gather your stones
and toss them in my face, hence these furrows.
You make everything easy,
you soften days, words, countries. Ugh!
Who, pray, is the Iago? You would have to kill him
instead of Desdemona, my beloved.
All those wise men, those gullible books
whispered to me and I believed
I must kill what is purest to go deep,
squeeze something where it does not fit,
mix my poison, drink poison,
shed blood like ink from my wounds
into bottomless columns of print. O wisdom, Iago:
you would nail the Christ in me to the cross
to drive the Barabbas in me out.
I spread my Desdemona on linen like a sacrifice
(but pure as snow, fine as alabaster, she did not suffer
a single scratch) and the candle, already spilling,
I blew out. (Go out, flame, go out!)
Can a rose, after it has snapped,
be brought back to life and bloom? No,
it withers and dies. Me too.
I loved too much, now it is my great country I love.
Even Desdemona’s bones I cannot forget,
so pure, so delicate: I kissed sweet words
when I took their lives. And your ashes, o Desdemona,
with fingers numb and stiff
I now sow as these lines on this clearing.

Jorma Etto, Ajastaikaa (Porvoo–Helsinki: WSOY, 1964), pp. 27–28. Translation and photo by Living in FIN

Arja Tiainen, “I Roll Up the Rug”

Käärin maton rullalle ja paiskon sen
pihalle puistellakseni myöhemmin,
pestäkseni lattiat. Mietin kristinuskon ja buddhalaisuuden
eroja ja yhtäläisyyksiä. Millaista olisi elää tietämättä
synnistä mitään? Miksi juuri mietiskely koetaan pahana?
Täältä ne lähtivät viidakkoihin, käännytystyöhön.
Minun mieltäni ei käännytä mikään.
Kohta katson millainen on täydellinen nainen: tietysti
hänellä on märkä pusero ja pitkät hiukset?
Täydellisistä miehistä ei ole paljon filmejä!
siihen ei miesohjaajien mielikuvitus yllä.


I roll up the rug, tossing it
outside to give a good shake later
when I wash the floors. I think about Christianity and Buddhism’s
differences and similarities. What would it be like living with no
knowledge of sin? Why has it been meditation people see as bad?
From there it was a short step to heading off to proselytize in the jungles.
Nothing can change my mind.
I am about to see what a perfect woman is like.
Naturally, she has a wet sweater and long hair, no?
There are not many movies about perfect men.
They are too hard for male directors to imagine.

Source: Arja Tiainen, Jokainen yksinään paperin äärellä (Porvoo–Helsinki–Juva: WSOY, 1989), p. 63. Photo and translation by Living in FIN