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Happy 90th, Kirsi Kunnas! (Finnish poet & HCA nominee)

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Dec 14, 2014, 1:56:57 PM12/14/14
Her children's poems are often nonsense poems.

In 2014, she was nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Medal.

She's also translated works by Tove Jansson, Astrid Lindgren, Lewis Carroll, Maurice Sendak,
Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Margaret Wise Brown into Finnish.
(photo, brief bio, awards and a few book titles)
(23 poems - in English!)
(according to this, Kunnas' books have been translated into six European languages,
including English, but I couldn't find any English titles in Amazon or Abebooks)
(interview from 2010)

First half:

Pied Beauty - Two Translations of a Hopkins
Poem by Finnish poet Kirsti Kunas

Account of Interview by Riina Katajavuori
(Hopkins Festival Newbridge College 2010)

Kirsi Kunnas, a distinguished Finnish poet and a translator, mostly known in her home country
as a unique writer of children's poetry, published her own Collected Poems - poems for adults,
this time - in the late 1990's. In the end of the book there is a sequence of her translations as
well. Kunnas has chosen some samples poetry translations (trasnlations of Federico Garcia Lorca,
Juan Ramon Jimenez, Viiu Härm, Ellen Niit, Paul-Eerik Rummo). But the first poem in this
sequence is Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

First it is printed in English in this book, and then - peculiarly enough - two translations follow.
The first translation is dated 1949, and the second translation, is from 1992. What is the story
behind this? And how has the translation changed during 43 years?

I decide to phone Kirsi Kunnas. She sounded delighted on the phone and immediately began
to recite Hopkins in English, by heart. She tells me that it took her 6 months to 'get inside'
this poem. It also took some time to be able to choose which poems she wanted to, and could
translate. She ended up translating Pied Beauty and Spring. The poems were published in a
Finnish literary journal Näköala in 1949.

"I tried to find the long stroke of the internal rhymes & words, Hopkins'ss language is like
playing violin or painting with long strokes. Hopkins has a strange skill."

"Which one do you think is better?" Kirsi Kunnas asked me on the phone. "Be honest!" she
adds. "I must say", I answered, "that the second one is better, in my opinion. It is more
precise, you need less words, but Hopkins'ss idea comes out in a clearer way", I explain to her,
shyly, as she is a highly respected elderly colleague, soon approaching 90 years of age.

"Yes! And somehow, when I was doing the second translation, I felt that Finnish language
had got shorter, altogether," Kirsi Kunnas explains. Very true, I think - and perhaps this
applies also English language, if you think how language has changed during the last, say,
70 years?

"And, perhaps I had learnt something in the time being, my skills and my technique had
improved a little," says Kirsi Kunnas modestly.

A lot in deed had happened in her career between these two translations. The 1949 translation
was the very beginning of her career as a translator, and she was only 25 years old then.
The later translation includes the required life experience, and the perception needed with
Hopkins's poetry & poetics...

(recent articles about her 90th birthday - none seem to be from today, but I found one such in
Google News)
(magazine article from April)
(some book covers, including those by others she's translated)
(photos and more covers)
(short filmography)
(videos - almost all are in Finnish)
(includes longer booklist)

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