The moment rests in memory

The line from Cristine de Luca in her poem “Blue Snow, Fiery Trees” really summed it up!

Finnbrit, the Federation of Finnish-British Societies, and Oodi arranged an art night to remember on 15th March 2022. We invited a renowned poet, Christine de Luca, to visit Finland: first Helsinki, then Tampere, and then onto Oulu. The theme was “The Joys of Linguistic Diversity and Collaboration between Writer and Artist”, with a focus on the work Christine has done with the artist Victoria Crowe. Christine De Luca is a Scottish poet and writer from Shetland, who writes in both English and the Shetland dialect, her ever-threatened mother tongue.

During the event, Christine read a selection of poems she wrote in response to paintings by Victoria Crowe. The light, landscape, and the natural world have always been sources of inspiration and contemplation for the artist and the poet. In Victoria Crowe´s paintings, trees are at the centre. The poems and paintings are full of hope, and we were all once again encouraged and reminded to seek out the mystery and wonder in our most familiar surroundings.

At Oodi, Christine also introduced us to poems from her latest collection Veeve – some in English, some in Shetlandic. Many of the poems have been set to music and recorded. It was a privilege to be at the event – there was a magical moment when Robbie Sherrat played Shetland dance music with the beautiful views of the Music Hall and the National Museum basking in the sunset in the background. Earlier, Christine has collaborated with, for example, the traditional fiddler Catriona Macdonald, a fellow Shetlander. Catriona has also taught Robbie, and Christine and Robbie quickly found a common ground (or a common tune if you are speaking Finnish)!  

As Christine also draws inspiration from similar linguistic cultures, we heard Kalevala being recited in Shetlandic, Finnish and Swedish! Christine introduced Shetland to us with pictures and words that are easy for those who have chosen Finland to understand, the sweeping, wind-swept landscapes from a country that Denmark forgot to claim as its territory, and later, Shetland was assumed Scottish. Similarly, the Shetlandic dialect is not protected, it has no public funding or committee that would ensure correct spelling or grammar. Like early Finnish, it was disadvantageous to speak Shetlandic in the 1970s, the language weathered the storm thanks to a few enthusiasts.

We had a rare opportunity to hear the Shetland dialect, to learn about keeping a rare language alive, and to experience how diverse forms of art – poetry, music, and paintings – make up more than the sum of their parts. 

We would also like to thank the team that made the event happen: Christine and Robbie as the main acts but also ever-so-wonderful Mira Berglund-Fitzpatrick reciting Kalevala in Finnish and Swedish, another ever-so-wonderful Vivan Hakalax also reciting a poem, and Tony Shaw as the “Master of Ceremonies”. During the discussion, Laura Karppinen and Cynde Sadler stepped in to take microphones where needed.

This was the first time we have collaborated with Oodi, and a big thank you goes to everyone involved – the facilities and arrangements were excellent. Finally, we would also like to thank the two “lets-make-it-happen leaders” of the Federation of Finnish-British Societies in Tampere, Marjut Salminen, and Kaarina Ojasti. Thank you all for making the event a success!

It was also wonderful to see c.40 listeners and perhaps 10 people who stopped to enjoy Christine reciting the poems and showing Victoria’s paintings that resonate with the Finnish landscape and frame of mind, love of trees. One of the librarians listening to the event put it well saying: “Oh, it is wonderful to see a crowd here for the longest time, this takes me back to 2019, the good old times before the pandemic!” We all shared that feeling and had missed gatherings like this. 

If you missed the event, you can get acquainted with the topic and event via the following links: