Friday, 29 July 2011

Come; meet Rita Dahl

I met Rita Dahl in 2006 when she came for the Lagos Book and Arts Festival (LABAF). We have exchanged emails since then, encouraging each other in this lonesome business of ours—writing. She is Finnish, and reading her poetry brought back a theory I have in my head, which is; Nordic literature has a closer affinity to my Yoruba worldview.  

I have read little from this region to conclude, but from that which I’ve read, I see a close similarity in the world-view of the Scandinavia and Yoruba.  This is a hypothesis after all and I have not done much study to conclude this. In one of her poems, not published below, she writes: “No matter how small a snake is, it can’t be used as belts/A monkey can be caught by one who pretends to be a monkey.”

However, I first made this conclusion after I read Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter, rather self-convincing evidence. Then there was Carina Karlsson’s poetry that seemed soaked in epigrams and shrouded Yoruba philosophy, And Jan Erik Vold’s lyrical poetry convinced me even further…         

Anyway, to take myself lightly, I’ve considered my hypothesis a far-fetched desire to see similarity in the worlds, a certain fall-out of creating an inexistent metaphysical thread. Perhaps I’ll make it a project someday and explore these similarities if they indeed exist.  Lest I bore you, do enjoy Rita’s poetry…

There is a desire in me
There    is    a    desire    in    me    for    nights    without    night,    dawn
breaking,              many                     suns                        simultaneously
rising,     there       is       a          desire        for           rain,            falling
like        a          veil.     There       is         a        desire      in     me,   but
no     will,     I      use     simple     tools,    a    voice    of     hammer  and
chisel    in    the    darkest     night.     As       if          by          hammering
I  might    try   achieving   something,    a night  descending on a dark
wall, runes, a name perhaps. 

There is a desire in me has been taken (From The Enchantment of Thousand Steps, Avain 2007)


A concrete funnel-like construction with nine
entries altogether. Hell means that everything is repeated,

there’s no moving forward. Hell is frozen.
Where do all the fat gourmands go after death?

Hell is loose, a very popular action film,
crystals flooded from miserable souls who grab each other’s hands.

Maybe hell is beautiful after all? Bloody hell!
With the years I have come to the conclusion

that there is no justice in this country.
The doorbell is ringing. There are two

neatly dressed Mormons behind the door.
Hell has frozen on Earth.

Comment section broke at the same time.
Hell in a family or in heaven, where

would you spend your eternity? I have tried to bear
myself and understand why I sigh for the unattainable.

A real hell of anti-capitalists
has let loose. What happens after this?

We sacrificed six bottles, nothing
happens and the broadcast time should be filled.

Remember that heaven is hell for a basic masochist.
Is hell a cold or a warm place?

If hell is full, you have to stand and
wait. What’s the matter with you?

Don’t you know? If hell has frozen,
Finland is the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest.

(Poems are taken from Aforismien aika, PoEsia 2007)

She asked where this road would take us. We were crossing a meadow. Usually we chose another route. She preferred to be lost among the tall buildings that repeated themselves, reflected in the monotonous rows of windows. I had long since become lost. Water lilies fell from her eyes. I absent-mindedly picked them up from the earth behind her. She didn't notice. The sun burned and made her lift the hem of her skirt to fan her face. Trees grew in a moment, rivers ran accidentally into the sea. We were in a palace where she was the queen on her divan, I but one loyal chamber maid. I wanted only to sniff a small slice of the paradise hiding in her hair.

Rita Dahl (born 1971) is a Finnish writer and freelance journalist. She was vice-president and chair of committee of women writers of Finnish PEN between 2006-2009. She holds Masters degree in political science and comparative literature at the University of Helsinki. Her debut poetry collection, Kun luulet olevasi yksin, was published in 2004 (Loki-Kirjat), and since that she has published three other poetry collections: Aforismien aika (PoEsia 2007), Elämää Lagoksessa (ntamo 2008) and Topics from van Goghs´Ear (Ankkuri 2009). She has written also a travel book about Portugal, Tuhansien Portaiden lumo - kulttuurikierroksia Portugalissa (Avain 2007). In 2009 she published Picturemakers - a collection of articles of young and dead, legendary Finnish visual artists, young contemporary poets and foreign writers (Kesuura) and a fact book/pamphlet about Finlandized freedom of speech (Multikustannus) around the world, e.g. in Russia, China, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya and Finland.

She was editor-in-chief of the poetry magazine Tuli & Savu in 2001 and also edited a cultural magazine Neliö (, which had a special issue on Portugal; Dahl was responsible for the print edition. Dahl has also edited a partly bi-lingual anthology of Central-Asian and international women writers called The Insatiable Furnace. Women Writers and CensorshipKyltymätön uuni. Naiskirjailijat ja sensuuri (Like 2007). She coordinated a meeting for Central-Asian and international women writers, which was arranged simultaneously.

She is editing and translating an anthology of contemporary Portuguese poetry into Finnish. Her first translation of Portuguese of poems of Portuguese avant-garde poet Alberto Pimenta was published in September 2009. Her own poetry collection Life in Lagos (Elämää Lagoksessa) was published in Russian in Kazakhstan by Iskender in 2009. She also edited an anthology of Finnish and African writers, which would be published fall, 2011.

Dahl has participated in several international literary festivals, conferences and seminars, most notably in international women writers´ meeting in Bishkek (2005), in Days and Nights of Literature in Romania (2005), in a meeting arranged by Fenno-Ugrian Writers´ Union in Hanti-Mansinsk, Siberia and Petroskoi, Carelia (2005, 2006), in Lagos Book and Art Festival (LABAF) in Nigeria (2006), in Encontro Internacional de Poetas -festivaalilla (2007), in Arab-Scandinavian Female Poets´ Colloquim arranged by Swedish Institute in Alexandria, Egypt (2008) in annual meetings of International PEN in Dakar, Senegal and Bogotá, Colombia (2007, 2008).
 Dahl´s poetry is in translation in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish, Icelandic, Arabic, Romanian, and Estonian. Her poems have been published in numerous international literary anthologies and poetry reviews around the world, e.g. in The Calque (USA), Ice-Floe (Alaska), Períplo (Mexico), Confraria do Vento (Brazil), The Guardian (Nigeria), Knigoylub (Kazakhstan), Looming (Estonia), Nuestra Voz (International PEN), Shearsman (UK), Revista Prometheus (Argentina). 

In 2009 Dahl was chosen as a stipendiate of literature by Finnish Cultural Foundation to the castle of Schloss-Wiepersdorf in Germany.


  1. Nice post, thanks Jumoke!

    I´d like to hear more of this opinion of yours: Nordic literature has a closer affinity to your Yoruba worldview. How is that (for someone who is not too familiar with Yoruba worldview)?

    You are quoting one of my Lagos-poems: “No matter how small a snake is, it can’t be used as belts/A monkey can be caught by one who pretends to be a monkey.” Yes, in these poems I consciously tried to "imitate" or rewrite African proverbs - Finnish proverbs are a little bit different, although include also a lot of animals.

    All the best in your writing and check out our Africa-blog too:

  2. Two more corrections. First poem is from my book The Enchantment of Thousand Steps (Avain 2007). You can find an extract of it on the upper right side of my blog. I have published so far 5 poetry collections; Bel canto nieriöille was the latest one (2010). And in next month will come out my travel book/guide about Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Brazil.

  3. Much thanks Rita. I have a link to your blog here. I'm trust readers would go looking for more. :D

  4. I hope so Jumoke! Meanwhile, keep kicking & writing first of all!


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