Kulttuuriperinnön toimijat-sarja

Sarjassa julkaistaan näytteitä kevään 2020 Kulttuuriperinnön toimijat etäkurssin harjoituksista, joissa tuotettiin kuvitteellisia henkilöhaastatteluita Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seuran elämäkerrallisten tietokantojen pohjalta.

Beautiful sisters, come high up on to the strongest rocks,
we are all warriors, heroines, horsewomen,
eyes of innocence, heavenly foreheads, rose masks,
heavy breakers and birds flown by,
we are the least expected and the deepest red,
stripes of tigers, taut strings, stars without vertigo.

— Violet Dusks (1916), Edith Södergran

“I do not write poems, I create myself,” Finnish poet Edith Södergran explains when asked about her poetry. She looks pensive, then continues, “my poems are the way to myself.”

Edith Södergran sitting with a bear statue in her hand,
photo: The Society of Swedish Literature in Finland

You’re a Swedish-speaking Finn, correct?

– Yes. I grew up in a town in Eastern Finland called Raivola, but my parents were Swedish-Finnish. Swedish was the language we spoke at home, but Finnish was the language we spoke when we were in town. 

So your writing is done in Swedish.

– And German, and French, and sometimes Russian. I attended a girls’ school in St. Petersburg for seven years, where instruction was in German, so my first poems were written in German. But, yes. A large collection of my poems has been written in Swedish.

Has this multicultural background and studying in St. Petersburg influenced your writing? If so, how?

– It has, to some extent. Many of my earlier poems were influenced by my surroundings. For example, when I was living in Raivola, nature played a big part in my poems, but when I was attending school in St. Petersburg, the focus was no longer on nature, but on the Russian urban life.

My poetry has evolved a lot since then. Falling ill also showed in my writing.

Indeed. Diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1908, you travelled to Switzerland to deal with this disease. How was this experience different from living in Finland?

– My stay in Swiss sanatoriums lasted for six years, until 1914. During this time, while I was being treated for tuberculosis, a disease that my father died of, I had access to a lot of literature through the sanatorium reading-rooms. It helped my intellect and to improve my writing.

Your book “The September Lyre” was published in 1918, and you received some criticism for it.

– Yes… I wrote most of the poems included in “The September Lyre” during the Finnish Civil War, an event that completely changed my and my mother’s lives.

I have been told I’m too self-assertive, and that this book is the mere proof of it. And I get it. This book is not intended to be for everyone, only for those few individuals who stand closest to the boundary of the future. I am self-critical about my own writing, and I am sure that, looking back, I will regret having written some of the poems written during the war.

Talking about looking back, and to wrap this up, do you think poetry has changed your life?

– Absolutely. Through poetry I can escape, I can create, I can be. I do not write poems, I create myself; my poems are the way to myself.

That’s very inspiring. Thank you so much, Edith.

– Thank you.

Samantha Martinez Ziegler


Biografiakeskus. National Biography of Finland. Södergran, Edit (1892 – 1923). Available: <https://kansallisbiografia.fi/english/person/4814>. Retrieved April 13th, 2020.

Stenberg-Gustafsson, Nanna 2016: “Edith Södergran – runoilija edellä aikaansa”. Yle. Helsinki. 21.10.2016. Available: <https://yle.fi/aihe/artikkeli/2016/10/21/edith-sodergran-runoilija-edella-aikaansa>.

Poems (1916) by Edith Södergran. Translation © 2010 David McDuff. Available: <http://englishings.com/nvinprint/sodergran-poems-1916.html>. Retrieved April 13th, 2020.

The Society of Swedish Literature in Finland: Edith Södergran 1892-1923. Flickr. Available: <https://www.flickr.com/photos/slsarkiva/sets/72157644581542379>. Retrieved April 13th, 2020.