Eeva Kilpi, “Fart Hard in Your Own Hut”


Pieraista kovaa omassa tuvassa.
Joskus sitä on valmis epäröimättä
uskomann kapitalismiin.

* * * * * *

Fart hard in your own hut.
Sometimes it is unhesitatingly ready
to believe in capitalism.

—Eeva Kilpi, Runoja 1972–1976 (WSOY, 1978), p. 40. The poem was chosen using the True Random Number Generator at Photo and translation by Living in FIN

* * * * * *

The photo, above, is of an empty “fish restaurant,” built near Ukonniemi Beach on Lake Saimaa in Imatra, South Karelia, by the city government and their favorite private contractors at great expense to the once-beautiful natural environment and local taxpayers.

Although no restaurateurs had agreed to lease or operate the future restaurant when the project was mooted and approved by city planners and city councilors, the constructionn of the “fish restaurant,” which involved felling hundreds of trees, building black-topped car roads where once there had only been soft footpaths, and dozens of other kinds of deviltry disguised as “landscaping” and “improvements,” went ahead anyway.

The initial phase, the destruction of the original, gorgeous landscape, ran into considerable cost overruns, and project managers found themselves asking the city for more money to keep up their wave of mutilation.

Several years later, no one has emerged operate or lease the restaurant, although the building is ostensibly ready to fry up fish fingers and put them all in a line.

The restaurant would be a great opportunity for any shyster who wants to go in and out of business in less than a year, because the wonderful Nuotta Restaurant and Smokehouse, located on the other side of Ukonniemi Beach, has been doing land-office business ever since it added a rooftop terrace last summer.

The food and atmosphere at the Nuotta are nonpareil, as all its regular and irregular customers know, and its view of Imatra Harbor and Laimassaari is stunning. On a warm, sunny day, I could sit there for hours, just sipping a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.

Even my dog thinks Nuotta is the cat’s meow. He once forced me to go there, after a long walk through the forest, so we could sit there for half an hour and just inhale the view. I had to order a cup of coffee and a doughnut to justify our odd-couple presence on the veranda. My dog was immeasurably pleased.

So why would such a tiny harbor need another fish restaurant? This isn’t “innovation,” as the current so-called bourgeois Finnish government would call it. This is sheer stupidity that was egged on local decision-makers by the construction lobby, who are always trying to drum up new projects for themselves, whatever cost to the built heritage, environment, and taxpayers, and whether their dubious improvements are really needed by flesh-and-blood, paying customers and townsfolk or not. LIF


Arto Lappi, Five Poems

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Kuinka puhuttiin —
sadat, tuhannet sanat
ettei yksikään
mieleen jäänyt: hymysi
kaikkien niiden läpi.


However much we said—
one hundred, one thousand words—
not a single one
sticks in my mind, because your smile
shines through every one of them.


Vaikka pöydän ympärillä oli neljä tuolia
mummo antoi istua vain sillä, joka
varoitti narahtaen. Ja samassa pöytä oli täynnä
mehua, keksejä. Ja kilo voita leivän päällä.


Although around the table four chairs had been arranged
Grandma would let me sit only in the one chair
That forewarned her by creaking. The table was chockablock
with juice, biscuits, and a kilo of butter heaped on top of the bread.


Juosta varjoaan
kiinni, vihdoin tajuta —
makuulta sen saa
napattua: samalla
saa hiukan aurinkoa.


Running after your shadow,
trying to catch it, finally realizing:
when you are lying down, it can be
snatched. At the same time,
you get some sun.


Jaksan katsella
metsäreunaa, mitään ei
tapahdu. Mittaan
sitten kesän lopulla


I manage to go have a look
at the forest’s edge: nothing is
happening. Then I measure
my stomach’s circumference
at summer’s end.


Sorsanpoikaset —
emon perässä uivat
hauenkin kitaan.


swimming behind their mother,
right into a pike’s maw.

Arto Lappi, Harakan paja: mitallisia runoja (Turku: Sammakko, 2007), pp. 8, 21, 39, 124, 91. The poems were chosen using the True Random Number Generator at

Photo and translations by Living in FIN

Hannu Salakka, “The Snowfall Slowly Sifts the Air Pollution”


Lumisade seuloo hitaasti ilman epäpuhtaudet.
Seinät ovat kylmät,
tekee mieli nostaa jalat tuolille.
ihon alla on arpia
niinkuin jonkin tuntemattoman eläimen kynsiminä.
Lapsi juoksi jo lattiala
ja puhuu itselleen omalla kielellään,
se on jo lähdössä,
me jäämässä tähän.


The snowfall slowly sifts the air pollution.
The walls are cold,
Making you feel like propping your feet on the armchair.
Under the skin
In your stomach are scars
Like an unknown animal’s claws.
The child dashes round the floor,
Speaking to itself in its own tongue.
It’s on its way,
We’re staying here.

Hannu Salakka, Ennen kapaisin tähän (Otava, 1983)

Translation and photograph by Living in FIN

International Translation Day: Eeva Kilpi

Eeva Kilpi. Courtesy of

I have it on good authority that today, September 30, is International Translation Day.

In real life, I’m a fairly experienced professional translator from Russian to English.

In my virtual life, I’m a hapless tyro still trying to get a handle on the orderly but utterly alien beauty of Finnish.

I’m only happy to say that, after studying the language for five or six years more or less seriously, some things are starting to feel less alien.

Then there are the dumb things you do when you’re “young”—in a language, not in life. I’ve fallen in love with an 88-year-old Finnish writer whom I’ve never met in real life and probably never will meet.

Her name is Eeva Kilpi. In Finland and other parts of the world, she is quite famous. She has even been rumored to be on the long list or shortlist (I don’t really know) for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

In English, however, she is virtually unknown. The first selection of her poems in English translation, wonderfully translated by Donald Adamson, A Landscape Blooms within Me, was published only two years ago. I could not recommend it more highly, especially because, as a bilingual edition, the book is a real boon to Finnish language learners like me.

If you’re one of the eight or nine humanoids who have been following this blog, you will have noticed I’ve been making way too much space lately for my own dubious translations of Eeva Kilpi’s poems.

So I can think of no better way of celebrating International Translation Day than pumping up the old random number generator to pick me a page number and, thus, a poem from Kilpi’s collected poems, Perhonen ylittää tien (A Butterfly Crosses the Road, WSOY, 2000), to translate for the occasion.

Chance operations took mercy on me today. They directed me to page seventy-one.

Vain kirjeen alussa me tohdimme enää
nimittää toisiamme rakkaaksi ja hyväksi.

Only at the letter’s beginning do we still dare
To call each other darling and dear.

—Eeva Kilpi, Laulu rakkaudesta ja muita runoja (WSOY, 1972)

Translated 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.