“Through my indisputable individualism, and only so, can I express the general. At least that is my aim”, writes Aila Meriluoto in her journal Vaarallista kokea (Dangerous to Experience). The desire to bear witness to her own life as well as contemporary events has carried her decades-long career; the author gives us a personal view on human life. Doing so, Meriluoto has put herself and her relationships at stake ‒ trusting that exactly that is her duty as a writer.

Hanna Hirvonen, text and photos
Milla Selin, translation from Finnish


“I have an area within me which I use and will use, coolly and ruthlessly, to my own advantage, everything and everyone that life brings my way. And that is writing. And I do it without scruples and with full entitlement. Because it is an ethical thing to do, more important than anything else, even friendships: giving testimony”, Aila Meriluoto writes in her journal Vaarallista kokea (Dangerous to Experience) on November 8th, 1972.

Aila Meriluoto is best known as a poet but her career, which began in the 1940’s, also includes prose and an extensive autobiographical body of work. Among other things, Meriluoto has published three journals: Lasimaalauksen läpi (Through the Stained Glass) [WSOY, 1986], Vaarallista kokea (Dangerous to Experience) [WSOY, 1996] and Tältä kohtaa (Right here) [Siltala, 2010]. She has also written a childhood memoir Mekko meni taululle (The dress went up to the board) [WSOY, 2001]. These are the books referenced in this article.

Ailan kirjat (9)Aila Meriluoto has published three journals: Lasimaalauksen läpi (Through the Stained Glass) [WSOY, 1986], a diary from 1944-1947; Vaarallista kokea (Dangerous to Experience) [WSOY, 1996] whose entries were written in the years 1953-1975, and Tältä kohtaa (Right Here) [Siltala, 2010] which spans from 1975 to 2004.


Aila Meriluoto describes her work as follows: “There are two worlds, dimensions, in me. One self writes my books, poems and prose. In the other I write a journal, the concrete, functional ‒ and dysfunctional. The two wrestle with each other, perhaps help one another, too, when they feel like it. It’s probably not a good idea to only read these journals. And probably not only the poems, either. They support each other. At least in me. The creative side as well.” (April 23rd, 1992)

Publishing the journal entries, often very bleak, has never been easy for Meriluoto; the writer habitually ponders why other peope should have to read about her struggles with providing for four children, for example; or her sex life, characterizations of friends and literary people, or later on, descriptions of an ailing body and other challenges of old age. Every time, she ends up with the same conclusion: her purpose in life is to give testimony right here ‒ and an honest testimony requires putting not only herself but also friendships at stake. Her own life with its details is essential in the poems of Meriluoto, too, particularly her later work.


Pieksämäki throughout life

Aila Meriluoto hails from Pieksämäki, Finland. Aila’s father, Kaarlo Meriluoto, was the principal at a local school, where her mother, Hilja Meriluoto also worked as a teacher. She had one sister, Sirkka. Aila was a quiet child who kept to herself, reading and writing. Running outside with other children was not a priority. There were strict rules at home. Going to the library was prohibited because her mother thought lending books was unsanitary.

The creative soul searched and wandered through different imaginary worlds. For her own secret spot Aila chose the attic, where she regularly snuck into to read old magazines and books. The childhood days were not without joy shared with other children, though; her best friend was Muru, who joined Aila in inventing a new language together, among other shenanigans.

The childhood landscape later became an important summer getaway and an inspiring work environment, stimulating and safe according to Meriluoto. (It was a working environment specifically when there weren’t too many people around: visiting lovers and lady friends, children, grandchildren…)

Pieksämäki features strongly in Meriluoto’s collection Kimeä metsä (Shrill Forest) [WSOY, 2002], titled after a poem with the same name. The poem was born after Meriluoto’s husband, Jouko Paakkanen, entered Takataka* and Meriluoto misheard his comment about the darkness of the woods. The Finnish word pimeä (dark) sounds similar to kimeä (shrill) and Meriluoto wondered why the man would describe the forest so.

In the collection Kimeä metsä (Shrill Forest), Aila Meriluoto takes in the nearby surroundings of Pieksämäki with all senses. The nature and its delightful frequencies are only a crack of the door away. The movement of the forest is soothing, when the aches and pains of old age, or even impending death, weigh on the poet’s mind. In the titular poem, the shrill voices of the grandchildren echo through the night, as they approach Takataka hoping for treats.


*Takataka (Rear-rear) is a house built for Meriluoto in the turn of the 1970’s and 80’s. Takataka is in Pieksämäki near, assumably behind, the Takaniemi estate, formerly the house of Meriluoto’s parents and currently owned by her children.


“What on earth do you
mean by shrill?”


Nowadays Meriluoto lives in Helsinki, which she has called home for most of her life. She first moved to the capital in 1944 when she began her studies at the university. Everything was new and exciting for a country girl in a big city. There were so many people, so many others! Leaving for Pieksämäki, and returning to Helsinki, have always been momentous occasions:

“As always before leaving, things become intensive, once-in-a-lifetime kind. So as one should not leave. In the past years I have almost been ready to write a bookful of poems right before I leave. And it feels like such a waste to leave all of this behind. Like dying in the middle of abundant living”, Meriluoto writes on September 10th, 1972.


Inspiration from infatuation and loneliness

All in all, the life lived is among Meriluoto’s most important sources of inspiration. In the book Kimeä metsä (Shrill Forest), Meriluoto wakes up next to her husband in the morning, looks at his wrinkled skin, then her own. The moment becomes a poem. Three decades earlier, on a September evening, Meriluoto wrote: “I thought of the TV as a sugar cube in the corner of each living room, and everyone communally sucking on it. Until reality steps in through the door one day, from behind. That could be a poem, in my current style (conversational, notes on everyday things) ‒ actually, I should rush to write a new collection in this style, while it still feels fresh.” (September 5th, 1972)

In addition to domestic life, different kinds of cultural outings and hustle and bustle have been a major source of poems. Often an interesting man is involved. Aila Meriluoto has always been drawn to intellect in particular ‒ smart people able to discuss art, and understand her poems as well. She usually brought home a feeling of infatuation from her travels. The writer thinks it’s awesome to be a little in love (!) ‒ the feeling is perfect for creating substance for work.

Aila Meriluoto gets excited about things easily and will talk to anyone. She thrives as the center of attention, wants to be a known and recognized person. On the other hand, the writer is a shy and reclusive woman, who dreads the ever present expectation to react to what other people say and do. She longs for time alone with her thoughts. In social situations, in excess, there is a danger of losing oneself. “Irmeli is in Tunisia and on Saturday Panu left to America for a week. This void feels good only, for once. I’ve had enough ‒ of what? Not just the alcohol. Talking. Reacting. It’s snowing.” (January 28th, 1973)

In solitude the writer reads massive quantities and gets inspired by the writings of others: “This morning I read the poems of Maire Harme and a view opened ‒ across my own potential, which always happens when I read contemporary poetry. I realise I could write about even this that has happened to me, and what will happen”, she remarked on December 25th, 1961.

Aila Meriluoto 2017Aila Meriluoto at a Mother’s Day lunch in May 2017. PHOTO: Ursula Viita-Leskelä.



Aila Meriluoto (born 1924) has written 15 poetry collections, five autobiographies (three of which are journals), novels, and children’s books.

Meriluoto became known in 1946, when her first book Lasimaalaus (Stained Glass) was published by WSOY. The book sheds light on a young girl’s inner world during wartime in Finland.

The last book by Meriluoto is Tämä täyteys, tämä paino (This fullness, this weight) form 2011. In the poems, Meriluoto describes old age and reminisces the most important men in her life.

Meriluoto has made an impressive career as a translator. She has translated into Finnish, for example, the poetic science fiction story Aniara (1963) by the Swedish poet Harry Martinson, and the Emil of Lönneberga series, a childhood favourite of many, by Astrid Lindgren.


Alive after all ‒ to write

Aila Meriluoto became a poet during the summer she thought would be her last. It was 1944. Finland was at war for the fifth year, the Soviet army was barging across the border. One night, Meriluoto stood in the middle of the summery landscape of Pieksämäki. The lake was calm. It was a night when the sky never gets dark. That moment gave the 20-year-old creative soul the verse.

Suddenly, Finland was no longer at war and Aila Meriluoto was alive. To write, was her impression. The poem Kakskymmentä suvea (Twenty Summers) is in the first collection. It has mostly been interpreted as a love poem, even though it really is about letting go of life.

Ailankirjat(12)Aila Meriluoto finished the poems of Lasimaalaus (Stained Glass) when she was 22, and sent them to a WSOY competition. Illuminating the wartime feelings, the creative flame, and the first loves of a young person, the book shone brightly among the competitors and won. The book is one of the most popular Finnish poetry collections; 14 editions have been printed so far.


After Lasimaalaus (Stained Glass), Meriluoto has written 14 collections of poetry. The author herself thinks the most important books came long afterwards ‒ even though her first is still the most well known. For Meriluoto, when a poem is born, it is received. The moment is solemn, festive even. A poem requires some kind of push to emerge. The poem Kivinen jumala (Stone God) from the book Lasimaalaus (Stained Glass) was set to motion in the mind of the young poet after Helsinki was bombed in 1944. Meriluoto saw masses of people climbing out of shelters, cellars, gateways…

However, the mundane can also be moving. The motions of a beloved man, for example. Or budding birch leaves in springtime, so small they can barely be seen. A large portion of Meriluoto’s poems has also been inspired by a work of art, like a painting or music. The poetry of young Meriluoto is challenging; to understand the references the reader must be familiar with art. She has also immortalised imaginary people and their characters in her poetry.


Meriluoto became a poet during the summer she thought would be her last.


The profession of an author can be a heavy burden. Sometimes the writer ends up loathing herself. This happens to Meriluoto especially if she can’t arrange her mind in a way that allows poems to arrive. “I have looked at myself in the mirror. I look like a rather pretty 20-year-old ‒ in evening lighting and a certain mood! If I had pretty teeth, I’d be okay. For what? Damn this childishness. No wonder the poems aren’t coming. I’m so empty, nothing but ripples on a surface,” Meriluoto scrutinizes herself on June 28th, 1961.

The poems came, eventually, once more. “On Sunday I wrote another poem, the sixth, it was an all-encompassing experience, I don’t know where the hours went.” (July 14th, 1961) “I looked at my old poems, made a couple of alterations. They, too, had matured during this time. Now I have 21 poems and assumably will write a couple more. It depends on the atmosphere at Takaniemi. Maybe I’ll have a collection by autumn.”

The collection on the way is Portaat (Stairs) [WSOY, 1961], a book with an intense presence of nature. The sea, forest, or wind suddenly takes over a person, intermingles with the body and mind. Meriluoto moves between dreaming and awakenness, the real and imaginary. Often the starting point of a poem is something tangible, like a boat or strands of hair on the forehead, but immediately it plummets into the depths of the unknown. In one of the poems, the narrator slips and falls into letters of the alphabet, and discovers a network of underground stairways and tunnels.


Poems and correspondence in Sweden

The years lived in Sweden, 1962‒1974, form an important segment of Aila Meriluoto’s life. Meriluoto wrote the collections Asumattomiin (Into the Uninhabited) [WSOY, 1963], Tuoddaris (In the Fjeld) [WSOY, 1965], Silmämitta (Approximation) [WSOY, 1969], and Elämästä (On Life) [WSOY, 1972]. The time in Sweden introduced the problems of an immigrant into the poems: the feeling of being an outsider, not having the language at first, and eventually the new language, Swedish, which in turn seemed to be critizised in Finland.

From a poetry perspective, life was productive, but something seemed to be missing: “Funny, I’ve written books much more frequently than before, and yet my conscience is endlessly nagging me for not getting anything done. I guess is it because in a way I’m just throwing my words into thin air. I have no one to closely observe my affairs, to be part of them”, Aila Meriluoto wrote on November 4th, 1969.

The everyday life in Sweden was much focused on writing letters and waiting for the reply. Meriluoto corresponded with family members, friends, and other artists. Love affairs began and ended in letters. Whisky, which calms the mind and shines a positive light on life, always inspired the writer; in Sweden the poems were born on quiet nights when the writer was left in peace ‒ or perhaps suffered from loneliness. “But if there is no letter tomorrow, either, how can I then bear it? These lonely nights in particular. A poem I already wrote. It is easiest to write of loss.” (July 26th, 1973)

In the midst of everything else, the arrival of a poem is almost always a joyous occasion. “Hooray, I seem to be writing something. I feel like that last poem is a good one. I managed to say something that was important to me, and at the same time, something new. I struggled and revealed this certain knowledge, in a form that taught me something. That it really happened. That’s what a poem must be: natural, organic, actually happening.” (July 2nd, 1961)


Harshly critiqued writer

Publishing a book always terrified Aila Meriluoto: “And I don’t really know how it feels, perhaps it is best to forget all about it for now. Blah. There’s always this transcription blues”, she writes on August 18th in 1972. She has just sent the manuscript for Elämästä (On Life) to the publisher.

What feels best about publishing a book is the time right before, knowing that the text is finished and can be let go. In that moment the writer is still safe from critique, which hasn’t always been of praise: “I doubt there is a Finnish writer more despised than me.” (April 4th, 1972)

At some point the critique became so hurtful, Meriluoto had to stop reading it. Positive feedback in turn made her emotional. “Today at noon, Else Tanttu came to speak about her poetry recital event. She read some of my poems as a sample ‒ it was fantastic. I regained faith in myself as a poet. I know I have created something that will last. I’m not redundant.” (January 11th, 1962)

Self critique has never been its kindest form. “I read the three poems I have written. Somehow I was able to swallow the first, yet it always sticks to the throat a bit. The other one slipped down without a trace, it’s merely a cute little melody, and then came the third with the fright again: good lord. That’s all I can say, it’s an awful poem”, Meriluoto laments on July 2nd, 1961.

Blunders would not end up in the published books. Meriluoto has always stood behind her work, seen its value. She has been aware of her status as a trailblazer in the field of Finnish literature. “A strange, touching acknowledgement, that my poems literally rise above the daily critique. I, as a person, should grow up beyond the hurt it causes, when it clearly cannot defeat my poetry.” (July 30th, 1961)


The mother of four, awake at night

“If I had financial independence, I could be mentally independent more easily as well. It’s diabolical how money so concretely rules the spirit. One would have to develop into a super-human to be free under these circumstances, trying to raise four children on poetry.” (July 30th, 1961)

Aila Meriluoto has four children, Ursula, Petri, Samuli, and Aija. “I haven’t raised anyone. I, for sure, have been raised up. I feel like my children, unlike my parents, have let me grow”, Meriluoto describes her parenting on March 11th, 1999.

Meriluoto’s eldest daughter, Ursula Viita-Leskelä, says that Aila was never a very motherly mother ‒ Aila has been more like a close friend. When Aila was ironing clothes, Ursula would iron handkerchiefs. Her mother’s artistic abilities with pen and paper extended to drawing paper dolls for her daughter. These are the first memories that come to Viita-Leskelä’s mind of Meriluoto as a mother. Later, time spent together has been of honest discussion (also in letters); mother and daughter have understood each other from half a word.

The writer-mother often stayed awake at night; poems were born when others were not around. The typewriter would pound during the daytime (the poems Meriluoto would write by hand!). While the others were awake, Meriluoto mostly worked on translations and other writing work not involving her own texts. “Only the conventional divide of days and their hours prevents me from functioning. If I was all alone, I might live by my own special rhythm”, she writes on November 4th, 1969.

Christmastime was always special in Meriluoto’s family. The arrival of the holiday and the people visiting each year are not omitted or forgotten in the diaries. The family would always gather together, at home in Enköping for example: “Tytti arrived, the youth cleaned up all the rooms without me, cardamom buns have been baked and candy boiled, the gingerbread dough is ready for tomorrow, there is a whole basket full of presents, and then some. Christmas is coming, after all.” (December 21st, 1970)


Compulsory columns and titillating translations

In her diaries, Meriluoto makes stern remarks about the financial distress she endures. The writer’s income comes from advance payments from the publisher, artist’s grants (a five-year-long on occasion), library numerations, and awards. The payments are irregular, and each coming month’s spending money always a mystery: “What a job this is, getting paid only every other or third year.” (November 18th, 1971)

Meriluoto has made a remarkable career as a translator, also. She has translated into Finnish, among other works, the poetry collection Duino Elegies (1974) by the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke. It was a stretch of twenty years, which offered plenty of inspiration for personal work. Rilkean Meriluoto can be found among her own poems. Meriluoto feels connected to Rilke’s thinking; to the extent that, when she was younger, her lovers sometimes felt jealousy.

Aila Meriluoto has always been precise about her work. She gets furious when she isn’t given enough time to react to the revisions made by her publisher. Sometimes the work she is only doing to make money tastes like cardboard. Especially when there is a pile of unfinished tasks. “I tried to write a short story for a paper ‒ I do need even the smallest of extra income, but it didn’t work out, it was too forced. WSOY is terribly odd, I still haven’t received payment for a translation I sent in two months ago, not to mention any new assignments.” (November 24th, 1970)

Sometimes inspiration comes from getting something done, whatever it happens to be: “Has it only been a week? I started to work and whoop, just like that, life was life again. Even translating that slick and shallow girls’ book activated me so much that I started to write letters wildly. And I was harmonious, like I always am when working. In other circumstances I always feel guilt, so now I am feeling altogether safe.” (September 6th, 1970)

Publicity is a part of an author’s life. “A few days ago I had a visit from Irja Sievinen from Apu magazine, a lovely auntie who didn’t really have a clue who I was. It was very refreshing.” (September 1st, 1972) Performances were frightening, but manageable, just like all the other demands outside of creative work: “Tomorrow I think I will do my taxes for Finland. It is always the bane of January, but also January’s relief when it’s finished. It’s probably the most positive event in the world when something gets done. Not so much for the thing itself, but for the freedom to start something new.” (January 19th, 1970)


The writer and men

Even though Meriluoto has always longed for love and intimacy, she has also been afraid to fully and wholly commit to someone ‒ because of poetry. “Year after year I have become more and more afraid to commit to one single person with a name, becoming tangled in a net of certain individual tensions”, she writes on December 16th, 1961. “I know and admit now, once again, that my future lies only in being completely free to write. It’s the most important thing”, she continues later on the 25th.

These thoughts are based on being married to Lauri Viita (1916‒1965) for eight years. The couple married in 1948. All four of Meriluoto’s children are with Viita. The marriage was stormy, and Meriluoto felt she was losing herself in her husband’s dominating persona.

During Viita, Meriluoto kept no journals, but revisits the years in later writings: “I recently wrote about how I “died in Lauri”. My own self just disappeared, melted into Lauri’s fierce self. I also remember how I didn’t have any “daydreams” (my typical therapeutic way of releasing tension), in other words, there was no tension between me and the world, because there was no me.” (February 24th, 1961)

During Lauri, Aila Meriluoto published two books. The children’s book Pommorommo [WSOY, 1956] she wrote while they were separated. Sairas tyttö tanssii (Valse Triste) [WSOY, 1952], a collection of expressionistic poems and translations of Rilke, was mostly written before Lasimaalaus (Stained Glass) was published.


“I have been afraid of getting
entangled in a net of individual tensions.”


In 1973, WSOY offered Meriluoto a titillating task: to write a book about Lauri Viita. Mentally revisiting a former husband was both demanding and rewarding. “Suddenly I see that I wasn’t invisible after all. On the contrary, I was very much in existence, like the odometer on a car, registering every single grain of sand”, Meriluoto described her feelings on January 29th, 1974. The importance of writing as a means of providing a view for understanding became pronounced during that time. Meriluoto says she understood that the man had loved her; that there had been other feelings than hate or disdain, which had tainted the marriage. The biography Lauri Viita [WSOY] was published in 1974.

After Lauri Viita, another rough love, Mart, entered Meriluoto’s life. The relationship started as correspondence and turned erotic. When the love abruptly ended, it turned into a book. Writing it required going through extreme emotions, love and hate, all over again:

“I have to begin even those letters I won’t be getting back. Well, not the same ones of course, but ‒ unfortunately ‒ starting from my current self. There is no other way to write them now. I have to gather all that is left unbroken in me, and somehow add the “nerve” of the original ones. A kind of make believe play-through of that relationship, or something with its truthfulness.” (January 2nd, 1971)

And, if possible, the time following the publishing of the book was even harder. Unknown women wanted to say thanks, because they felt the book was therapeutical. Besides that, the response was an attack of negativity. Since Meriluoto bases her work on real people and events (and what writer doesn’t?!), some of her friends who had been the basis of the characters in the book, severed ties with her. The message from the men was that they did not wish to become the “next Peter”. Peter-Peter [WSOY, 1971] had to be written, though, in order to get over a broken love. Peter-Peter had to written because it was important testimony.

“There is only one Peter-Peter. One love, one book. I will never again bare myself in writing like that, unless perhaps in my poems, which are ‒ poems. But that book was a suicide of a kind. I.e. I had two choices: either commit suicide or write a book. And I chose the more difficult route. I do not want to talk about it anymore.” (September 9th, 1972)


Testimony at the cost of privacy

Formerly, the author’s life had been marked by the search for a committed relationship. With Jouko Paakkanen, a Professor of Economics, she found what she had been looking for. He caught her attention at a WSOY event: Paakkanen was intelligent, and complex enough to suit Meriluoto’s exquisite taste. The couple later married and lived together over two decades.

The second marriage was both dear and demanding. “Nowadays I sit alone downstairs. Jouko goes to bed earlier and earlier. He is a very tired man. And I write poems about that.” (July 16th, 2000) “Walking. With a cane ‒ okay. But still alive. Still going forward. It’s pretty exciting. Experiencing.” (January 5th, 2003)

In her last published journal, Meriluoto graphically describes the aging of the body and mind. When she notices she can’t do the things she used to ‒ words, for example, she starts to forget, and the feet are getting more feeble ‒ she gets depressed. “The mind is as old and dilapidated as this skin of mine which has lost its elasticity. Everything leaves a mark.” (September 1st, 1998) “I experience poems at night and I can’t get up and write them down. In the morning, all I remember is the long gone dizziness.” (December 22nd, 2003)


“Still alive. Still going forward.”


When text is being born, even if in smaller portions than before, Meriluoto usually feels good. “I’m still here, just as ashtonished. I just read my poems, they are really good. I could publish two books already. But somehow I keep braking. That childhood reminiscence thing is still waiting. And yet I know it’s good, too. It’s just that if I ease up, something in me eases up. Agrees to die. Even though I won’t.” (November 7th, 2000)

In the late 1990’s Meriluoto got inspired by writing her childhood memoirs. Mekko meni taululle (The dress went up to the board) is a rhythmical description of her childhood and youth in Pieksämäki in the form of poetic prose. The fragility of an aging body, approaching death and losing a loved one in turn feature in the poetry collections in the 2000’s: Kimeä metsä (Shrill Forest), Miehenmuotoinen aukko (A hole in the shape of a man) [WSOY, 2005], and Tämä täyteys, tämä paino (This fullness, this weight) [WSOY, 2011].

The war in the writer’s youth has never left her thoughts. Trees keep falling in the shrill forest, but at least not on the house. At times Meriluoto is in Helsinki with husband Jouko: in the morning she wakes up but doesn’t have the energy to get up, because doing anything appears as a huge challenge when elderly. Luckily there is a loved one’s hand to hold. “I’m alive, still”, Meriluoto is able to note.





Her own honesty has truly terrified Meriluoto throughout her career. What happens when details meet the public eye, or when her own children or other people featured in the books read the stories about them? When it comes to poems, the feelings of terror are naturally milder; the lyrical form softens the message, leaves things more open to interpretation. The journals are harder to swallow.

Meriluoto has also burned her diaries, the first ten. One teenage book she left at the publisher for safekeeping. Even though in her hindsight the text is childish spattering, the author finds herself in it. She discovers the fight to write, the struggle to create. The battle of love, fear of life. To begin with, the diary was not meant to be a literary creation…

That’s what Lasimaalauksen läpi (Through the Stained Glass) eventually ended up as, though, as did the following diaries and correspondence which Meriluoto chose to reveal for the eyes of the nation. “I think they are purposeful precisely in understanding the human condition. That has been my passion since teenage years: how people behave, and especially the way they behave absurdly. Maybe one there will be a revelation WHY. It surpasses even intimacy.” (May 9th, 1999)

After giving testimony, Meriluoto has always concluded that she would have written the same even if she had known the consequences. The thing is, simply put, that writing is more important than people. And besides, judging from a distance, they turned out to be damn good books.


Other sources (in addition to Meriluoto’s journals): Statue of Fire. Poems by Aila Meriluoto. Translated from the original Finnish by Leo Vuosalo and Steve Stone. [Marathon Press in cooperation with the Finnish American Translators Association, 1993.]


Aila Meriluoto’s poetry in Kosmi:

“I’am not done yet…”

“All I hear…”

“Silhouetted trees played catch with the sun…”

“It started ringing at two thirty a.m…”





Our land


The Stone God



From the journalist

I sent Aila Meriluoto a postcard, requesting an interview, at the beginning of July 2017. I received a reply from her daughter, Ursula Viita-Leskelä. She explained that due to her mother’s condition of memory disorder, she did not give interviews any longer. Being in charge of the author’s copyright matters, she expressed interest towards the Kosmi project, and gave permission to translate Meriluoto’s poetry into English and Arabic.

I met Viita-Leskelä in Helsinki mid-July, and she gave me the poems she had chosen to be translated and published from among the works of Meriluoto. Our conversation is a part of this article, but the primary source has been Meriluoto’s published journals.

In Vaarallista kokea (Dangerous to Experience) Aila Meriluoto describes mostly the men passing by in her life ‒ infatuations and loves. Writing letters to them and waiting for the reply are constantly present in the thinking scribed into the diaries. The creative process, writing about writing, takes a minor role. In her own words, Meriluoto writes “at most about when the writing isn’t going well”. The reason is obvious: “When it is going well, the whole writing is spent on ‒ writing! There’s no need for a diary then.” At times the writer also describes writing, of course, the joy of giving birth to a poem. In the book Tältä kohtaa (Right Here), the feelings about being a writer and working are more pronounced. A lot of the text is about growing old ‒ how the writer feels about no longer being able and remembering ‒ and living the everyday life with a loved one.

In any case, I have concentrated on the mentions of the creative process and how poems come to be (the moments of happiness as well as the terror!), since that has also been the point of interest in the other Kosmi poet interviews.

Hanna Hirvonen



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