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Mirkka Rekola. Valekuun reitti.

Mirkka Rekola. Valekuun reitti. Helsinki. WSOY. 2004. 89 pages. 22 [euro]. ISBN 951-0-29397-0

MIRKKA REKOLA is the recipient of many literary awards, including the first P. Mustapaa Prize in the fall of 2004. This is a new Finnish poetry award, which she received for her lifetime's work and achievement. In the year 2000 she was one of the nominees for World Literature Today's Neustadt International Prize for Literature. WSOY has issued collected works of her aphorisms, poetry, and essays published over the past fifty years (see WLT 72:3, p. 658; 74:1, P. 201; and 75:1, p. 134).

Rekola is known for her complex, innovative style and her skillful use of grammar, which adds layers of polysemic meaning to her lines. Just as the readers of Rekola's poems are often inspired and intrigued by her message, certainly translators are likewise challenged to find alternative ways of rendering them in other languages. If one function of poetry is to slow us down and make us think, Rekola's poetry definitely achieves that goal.

Valekuun reitti is a brief eclectic collection of untitled pieces culminating in one longer prose poem. There are a few aphoristic lines: "You didn't say anything, you just looked. / Drink your thirst, you will find that fountain." Water is always an important element in Rekola's poetry, just as it is in the Finnish landscape. Memories of childhood--father, mother, and friends--with many references to wartime are the subject of the first half of the collection. Later, there are a few references to the frustrations of the modern world and its machines: "They haven't yet invented the machine that uses this machine." A few of the poems have a sad and tired mood that reflects old age and illness, but many more contemplate the seasons, cycles of life, and time and space in poems that are marked by a search for meaning and the calm acceptance of life's mysteries. Rekola's poetry travels with ease from the natural world to outer space and to the next world and beyond. Valekuun in the title is a term for a moon that is not quite true or real. Perhaps it is a metaphorical celestial object or a new astronomical discovery, a quasi-satellite. The last part of the collection, "Kurbinovo," is a longer poem that chronicles events that take place during a journey to Macedonia. The poet joins a group of travelers who are there to view the wonderful frescoes of a twelfth-century Orthodox church. Rekola's poetry often touches on religious themes, and this last long piece beautifully portrays the poet's sense of mystery and awe and her appreciation of the arts and life in general. Many biblical allusions cling to the poet's own voice, which has the urgency of a revelation: "The King of Glory, / of whom they sang, had entered, / and he was there and looked / over and past them / the face was steadfast, / eyes cool as a mountain wind, / heavy black hair. / And they were there / and saw, / and didn't know what to believe."

In a recent issue of Books from Finland (2004:3), Herbert Lomas translates the title Valekuun reitti as "The path of the false moon." His translations of some of the poems in the collection are available on the Internet at

Helena Darnell

Missoula, Montana
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Author:Darnell, Helena
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 2005
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