Miia Toivio (FI)

Miia Toivio, ”Miia With Two Eyes” (title of her blog), may be the one actor at the scene of the Finnish poetry of the 2000’s who is most connected with everything else in it – in this (complicated) roll of thread, not unlike the one she writes about in her Loistaen olet (Shining, thou art, Teos 2007): ”A red thread is rolled in my stomach, / and when it wakes up, everything will change, / the music will stop, and the chairs alike.”

Born 1974, a poetry activist, an organizator, editor-in-chief of the poetry magazine, Tuli&Savu (Fire&Smoke), at the time of its most crucial importance, 2003 to 2006, poet, a charming and compelling performer, a debatist, a critic – re-reading today her 2007 poems, I cannot help thinking of  her, anachronistically, and in a friendly amusement, as the young Pound of the new Finnish poetry.

Yet not only on account of those threads and strings. There are other affinities. So, where Ezra Pound came from America (which to him meant leaving the country-side), Miia is out from the Southern Ostrobothnia, from the Finnish Plains, something which, in many ways, may be heard in her (personal and poetic) voice: in its wide and long vowels – Miia with two i’s – apt to replace consonants as the building logs of her lines, yielding her flute-sound; in its often folk-dance-like rhythms, and in a certain thouroughness of her phrases. And in much the way the ”provincial” Pound came to be the most devotedly internationalist poet of the Modernist period, I tend to see the Ostrobothnian Miia as one of the most urbane poets of her generation.

Urbane she is, to me, firstly, in her high awareness of influence. More than many others, she has let the legacy of Modernisms (and the Finnish one especially) immerse herself, as in a beautiful poem that was written as a faithful palimpsest on a fragment from Talvipalatsi (The Winter Palace) by Paavo Haavikko, yet is completely independent from it. Both in her activity, and, more importantly, in the processes of her own poetry, she also comes across as someone very well aware of herself as one who has influence. Here I’m thinking of, say, the complicated patterns of addressing (as in the inaugural line of Loistaen olet: ”Open [the/a] mouth.”), promising and promise-taking, instructing (”Goodbye Modern. (…) Already I am dreaming of a herd that dreams of me. (…) Be careful with those adjectives.”), of questioning (as in: ”Whose is the chisel of speech, after all? Whose the high image?”), and confessing (”Once upon a time I was (…) indeed, only once”) you’d find everywhere in her work.

Both of these qualities in turn seem to contribute to a third kind of awareness – that of the writing, or the form of it, as such. Her poems have been described, and they may self-describe themselves, as ”machines”, yet I’d rather speak about their close relationship with the physiological and the body here. They would often seem composed of organs that, like those of the human body, are always ”at their places”, in a multi-purposeful ”connection” with their ”whole”,  yet always also displaced  –  their very ”connectedness” consisting of their always reaching for something else, something beyond (a new position, another organ, another body: what, on a general level, is known as ”desire”).

Machines, bodies, beings – this, finally, may describe her poems’ rare independence from their author as well, something which again, paradoxically, makes it possible for her to address, instruct, command, and implore them as well, and make them do things – once more not unlike my candidate for a male predecessor. ”Go, my songs, to the lonely and the unsatisfied”, the young Pound wrote (”Commission”, 1913). And here’s Miia, in a reference to Eino Leino, a Finnish contemporary of the great Modernist puller of strings: ”The song of my heart is in crumbles in the forest (…) so long I came to run after it (…) What do you think of it, how does it / feel to you, does it feel like being there?”

To me, at least, it always does (as not all songs do). I think this is why I like to permit it to address me.


Leevi Lehto


[Excerpts from MT’s work translated by me – LL.]