Beat Poetry in Finland in the 1960s

Authored by: Harri Veivo

The Routledge Handbook of International Beat Literature

Print publication date:  May  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9780415785457
eBook ISBN: 9781315210278
Adobe ISBN:


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Commenting on Pekka Kejonen’s poem “Other Howl” (“Toinen huuto,” 1965), Jorma Korpela, acclaimed modernist author and the then 22-year-old Kejonen’s mentor in literature, said he had never imagined someone so young could suffer so much (Kejonen 1994: 51). Reading Kejonen’s debut work Jam Session (Jamit, 1963), a collection of joyful and witty stories of young jazz musicians and teenagers in a provincial town in Finland during the late 1950s and early 1960s, one may indeed wonder whether life was as hard as depicted in the poem. It is true however, that the author was in permanent conflict with the authorities of his time, consuming alcohol and Pervitin—a methamphetamine used by the Finnish army during the war—in big quantities and living a restless bohemian life in the grey zone between literary salons and the gutter. He spent long periods in hospitals and asylums in forced rehabilitation before quitting drinking and drugs definitively in the 1970s. It is no wonder that Ginsberg’s “Howl,” characterized by Christopher Gair as “probably the best-known countercultural assault on the stultifying destruction of the individual by authoritarian surveillance and control” (Gair 2008: 71) and by Marjorie Perloff as having a sense of “displaced violence” (Perloff 2006: 41) at its core, intrigued Kejonen to the point that he appropriated it in his own work.

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