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Suomalaiset runoilijat - Poets of Finland

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  • Claes Johan Kemell (1805 - 1832)
    Claes Johan Kemell. Born on the 11th of Mar 1802 in Alivieska, was known to have been the first person to study the Romani culture and language in Finland. Kemell, some time before he died, was reporte...
  • Tauno Juhani Koskela (1916 - 2002)
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  • Jenni Elina Haukio
    Jenni Haukio Sinun tähtesi täällä Vuodet tasavallan presidentin puolisona. Avoin muistelmateos vuosista isänmaan palveluksessa.
  • Olli-Matti Ronimus (1929 - 2005)
  • Heli Kyllikki Parland (1915 - 1963)

Poets of Finland

Finnish poetry is the poetry in or of the Finnish language. Or perhaps rather poetry composed by the Finns, given that not all of it is written in Finnish exclusively.

Finnish poetry has a long, rich history, dating back ages. It has its roots in the early folklore in the areas inhabited by the Finnic tribes during the millennia. And still has a thriving presence today.


Worldwide, the best-known opus of Finnish poetry probably is the mythical national epic Kalevala, compiled by Elias Lönnrot from Finnish and Karelian folklore. Kalevala consists of short ballads and lyric poems gathered from the Finnish oral tradition during several expeditions by Lönnrot in Finland, Russian Karelia, the Kola Peninsula and the Baltic countries. Kalevala was instrumental in the development of the Finnish national identity, the intensification of Finland's language strife and the growing sense of nationality that ultimately led to Finland's independence from Russia in 1917.

Kalevala has been translated over one-hundred and fifty times into over sixty different languages, and it has inspired painters, musicians, cinema... Among others, Kalevala inspired Friedrich Kreutzwald's Kalevipoeg, the Estonian national epic. J.R R. Tolkien claimed The Kalevala as one of his sources for The Silmarillion. For example, Kullervo is the basis of Túrin Turambar in Narn i Chîn Húrin, including the sword that speaks when the anti-hero uses it to commit suicide. Echoes of The Kalevala's characters, Väinämöinen in particular, can be found in Tom Bombadil of The Lord of the Rings. Perhaps it was Tolkien who introduced Kalevala to his friend C.S. Lewis? In Kaleva, Manistee County, Michigan, USA, main streets are named after Kalevala.

Prior to Kalevala

The founder of literary Finnish was the religious reformer Mikael Agricola, the other of the two Lutheran bishops in Finland, who published a Finnish primer (c. 1543) and a translation of the New Testament from Greek into Finnish (1548). (The first Finnish translation of the whole Bible was published in 1642.) In the prefaces to his translations, Agricola showed familiarity with Finnish mythology as well as with foreign patterns of versification. And, anyway you slice it, there is this certain poetic angle to the Bible.

Fast-forward few centuries, and perhaps the two of the most noteworthy Finnish poets of the 18th Century were Jacob Frese and Frans Mikael Franzén. In addition to those two, perhaps the young Gustaf Philip Creutz who had to leave his poetry behind when he started his diplomatic career. While Finns, Frese and Franzén had to seek refugee from Sweden because of the wars, Creutz because had his career there.

Frese regarded himself a refugee from an enemy-occupied Finland. He was a gentle and intimate poet, and his lyrics and hymns contain some of the emotional pietism that were a feature of 18th-century thought. The best of Franzén’s work was written prior to his emigration in 1811. His idylls of are full of pre-Romantic idealism drawn from German and English sources. Creutz and his allies in poetry, best remembered from pastorals.

Moving on to the 19th Century, after the Finnish War (1808-1809) which resulted in Finland becoming an autonomous grand duchy of Russia. The new political situation gave rise to calls for an independent Finnish culture. The most significant poet of the era was Johan Ludvig Runeberg, in whose work the Finnish people and landscape first came to life in literature. His epic poems Elgskyttarne (1832; “The Moose Hunters”) and Hanna (1836), both in hexameter, won him a place in Swedish letters. With Elgskyttarne Runeberg laid the ground for the literary depictions of common people, a characteristic of Finnish literature ever since. He became Finland’s national poet with his patriotic cycle of poems The Tales of Enisgn Stål defusing the war, and turning in into an epic. .