The Finnish poet Pentti Saarikoski wrote three books of poems toward the end of his life–books that he conceived of as a trilogy. In turn the poems in each of these three collections "talk to one another" much as the extended poetry of Ezra Pound is conversant from one of his "Cantos" to another.
The first of Saarikoski’s volumes was titled: "Dance Floor on the Mountain"–and the image this evokes is impossible to draw or paint in a simple representational way.
There is a mountain. Now there’s a dance floor. How does one build a dancing place on the sheer side of the mountain?
Perhaps it extends "out" with lots of jerry rigged four by four sections of lumber? It probably sags a bit if too many Bacchic celebrants climb on at once.
You can’t get to the dance floor by and ordinary path.
Here is a hint from the poet about the nature of the path:
Snakes with their small tongues
licked my ears clean
once again I can hear
the sounds of the world
I want to keep this peace
in which I have creatures sit on my shoulders
and a dance floor on the mountain
Translated from the Finnish by Anselm Hollo
If you could write an equation for luck and reception and the search for a path its primary factors are in this poem.
Openness to the world plus patience equals newfound contentment plus mystic presence
I have been walking around for days now, learning to trust my life
to this new and spirited dog and I have been thinking ardently and
affectionately of Pentti Saarikoski.
I think perhaps I am luckier than Saarikoski who died young of
complications from acute alcoholism. I too had a despairing youth. I
too got hung up on the Promethean rocks of will and impatience and
resistance and curiosity.
On the other hand I had enough hard luck that I had to "work it" as they say in aerobics class.
Had to learn how to plunge into the dark and dangerous roads without fashionable alienation.
They don’t teach this in school. You can find bits of the lesson
from poetry and the holy books and you’ll find parts of it in therapy’s
arms or reading or child rearing or by challenging yourself to learn
from your mistakes.
But you won’t be given the answer.
But hang on and stay receptive. Saarikoski’s poems hold out the possibility of the well fed mind and soul.
A man’s poetry can be better than his life.
I’m hanging on to this new dog with all my nerves and dendrites.
Festive the rowan berries.
Birds on our shoulders.
Stay receptive, be tough, avoid sentimentality. Pray for sunlight. Give the finger when you must.
Who owns the land whence you came?
who the dirt you will be?
–translated by Anselm Hollo
Only conscience and consciousness own these things. And you can’t draw or paint them.
I’m hanging onto this harnessed dog with all my faith and might.
I will ask the gods for mercy. I will fight with the builders of roads. I will stay festive.
Thank you Pentti Saarikoski. Thank you Anselm Hollo for the crucial poems.