Anja Erämaja, Finland. Katarzyna Szal
Anja Erämaja, The singer’s papers
Laulajan paperit (The singer’s papers) is Anja Erämaja’s debut poetry volume, published in 2005. Recommended for the EPF Award by the translator Katarzyna Szal, it was shortlisted for the 2024 edition.
The volume’s trademark feature is a play with abstract associations situated on the verge of absurdity. They destroy ossified linguistic connections and the meaning of the text, suddenly pushing it in an entirely unexpected direction or finishing the poem with a surprising ‘punchline’ that leaves it permanently open, just like the mouth of the disorientated reader. Yet this disorientation is exhilarating rather than alarming, provoking a good mood. Thank to humour, (self-)irony, the use of colloquialisms and situations from the (singer’s) daily life, the author delivers this abstract mix in an accessible way that is attractive to the reader.
‘The reader, fed up with how-to lifestyle books, will feel the enlivening spirit of protest in these mixed-up notes,’ writes the reviewer. Indeed: Anja Erämaja’s poems have the power to return readers to a life that is colourful, unpredictable, and uncontrollable, a life that cannot be locked in the latest trends or posed pictures published on social media. Erämaja returns us to the chaos of real, everyday life where one makes mistakes and sometimes understands little, a life that never stops even if we want it to. Erämaja’s ability to see her own participation in this daily farce adds to the self-irony of her poetry.
A selection of poems
Anja Erämaja (b. 1963) is a singer, poet, author of short stories, novels, children’s books, a theatre play and a dance libretto; a photographer by profession. She arrived at poetry via the theatre and music groups she performed with. She also wrote lyrics for the latter. Tired with their rigorous form, she turned to poetry for greater freedom offered by prose poems and the stream-of-consciousness technique. She made her poetic debut with Laulajan paperit (The singer’s papers, WSOY 2005), shortlisted for the Helsingin Sanomat award and the Runeberg Prize. Erämaja comes from Merimasku in southwest Finland and lives in Helsinki.
Katarzyna Szal (b. 1979) is a translator and promoter of Finnish literature in Poland. A graduate of Polish Studies from the University of Wrocław, she defended her PhD dissertation on Polish-Finnish literary translation in Finland. Szal mainly collaborates with the Twórczość monthly. She currently lives in France.