from <cite>Chambers of the Heart</cite> Spanning over 50 years, Claes Andersson’s poetic oeuvre is as versatile and diverse as his career. In 1962 Andersson published his first poetry collection Ventil (Valve), which ushered in a blunt, lyrical expression that sharply departed from the established tradition of Finland-Swedish modernist poetry by harshly yet playfully attacking contemporary Finnish society and its political establishments. In later collections, however, the poet also looked inward and offered intimate, self-critical glimpses into the morbid world of the individual. As a psychiatrist and politician, Andersson thus delivers biting commentary on the human condition, masterfully penetrating the human psyche and the social systems that attempt to govern it. His striking use of irony, dark humor, and dizzying metaphor makes his take on Finnish life emotionally compelling, and being a jazz pianist, he has charged his poetry with a resonating musicality over the course of his career. Together, these  qualities have universalized Andersson’s unique style of expression, which  relates across many cultures and languages.

In the untitled poem from Genom sprickorna i vårt ansikte (Through the  Cracks in our Face) (1977), Andersson paints a grim picture of our everyday experience of death. The decomposition of society is made gruesomely palpable in the spiritual and physical decay of the body. The poet skillfully juxtaposes concrete and abstract language to produce a jarring image of reality. The untitled piece from Under (Wonder) (1984) offers an eerie perspective of the poet’s self-effacing expression. Irrepressible childhood fears wrap him in a haunting web of linguistic uncertainty; ironically, the speaker’s words come alive in this confession of discursive failures. In the selection from ‘Eight Poems on Love,’ taken from Andersson’s most recent collection Jag älskar dig med mina höstliga dimmor (I Love You with My Autumn Mist, 2012), the ardent speaker of the poem uses bombastic rhetoric, anchored by maritime terms, as a wry commemoration of the immemorial feeling of infatuation. 

Andersson, born in 1937, is an accomplished author, translator, musician, psychiatrist, and politician. He has authored 24 collections of poetry and eight prose works. Andersson received his medical degree in 1962, and in 1965 he founded the avant-garde magazine Finlands Bästa Tidning (1965-68). He has also served as a member of the Finnish Parliament (1987-99; 200708), as chairman of the Vänsterförbundet (Left Wing Union) (1990-98) and Finland’s Minister of Culture (1995-99). The poet has received several literary awards, including Eino Leino-priset (1986), Svenska Akademiens Finlandspris (1988), Tollanderska priset (1994), and Bellmanpriset (2007).

from Through the Cracks in our Face (1977)

A fully dressed man with a raised umbrella 
wanders out to the sea until the umbrella, too, is out of sight
He takes out the picture of grey quagmire underneath
a grey sky
A horse lies dead, strapped to its plow
Few still remember this image
He practices death
He gets to know the contours behind his face
He cuts into the back of his neck, from the front
The stench of urine and beer as he slices open
the belly of the whorehouse and as the dead pass
in and out of its open doors


from Wonder (1984)

I write from my hidden part
I write my inner skin into blood, I write
my taped-up face, cathedrals
in my fingertips And someone 
not visible moves through me, in and out
of the dark vaults where the scent of my childhood
still lingers in those silvery nets where the spiders dwell, those
shy spiderlings that love me, that
love my licorice-coloured blood and my
nnocent sweetness which they feed on
They school me
They write me
They write my inner skin
They fill it with spider-symbols, with letters
and crosses, with words and with bites and with holes
hrough which anyone who wishes can view
he failures of my taped-up childhood
across the perforated sky


from I Love You with My Autumn Mist (2012)

Eight Poems on Love


I will love you with the ocean that resides in me
I will love you with my depth and my surface, with my
warm streams

I will love you with my sheltering ice, with my skin
           of snow flurries and ice holes

I will love you with my shoals of swift small fish
          and gigantic great whales, with my
hungry pikes and perches, with my curious eels

I will love you with my luxury cruisers, oil tankers, submarines
           and motorboats
With my leaking rowboat

I will love you with my autumn mist, with my
          storms and stillness
With my upward falling summer rain I will love you
         so that your skin is as smooth as the water’s skin

But if you reject me
If you don’t want to be loved, I will hurl you into my deepest
        grave and cast you to my hurricanes
and let the sea surge over the shores where everything we had is consumed

I will cast you out with the weight and rage of the sea, with
        tidal waves and floods of biblical proportions
​I will forget you with the pulse and deep breaths of the tide