Chair No. 18 – Tua Forsström
Tua Forsström was born in 1947 and grew up in Tenala in western Nyland region where she still lives for half the year (the other half in Helsinki). She went to school in Ekenäs, graduating in 1966. Subsequently she studied literary theory, philosophy and social psychology at Helsinki University, earning a bachelor’s degree in human sciences in 1972. Between 1972 and 1992 she was employed as an editor at the Söderström publishing house. Since then she has been a full-time writer. From 1999 to 2004 she was given a professorship by the Arts Council of Finland.
In her writing Forsström has shifted between genres. She has collaborated with Nordic composers and written an oratorio, The Mariana Trench (1990), “for soloist, female choir, string quartet and cembalo”. But she is best known as a poet. Her debut was in 1972 with A Poem About Love and Other Things, but her breakthrough came with The Yellow Bird’s Nest in 1979. She came to be recognised for her intimate cadence, combining the form and aesthetics of modernist lyrical poetry with the contemporaneous need for prosaically involved literature. Rather than an “either-or”, her poetry sought the synergy that arises through a “both”. Or, to borrow a couple of lines from the aforementioned The Yellow Bird’s Nest:
Life is a series of unmatchable entities, yet
must be possible
Her collection, Snow Leopard (1987), was written when, after a period living in Helsinki, she moved back to her childhood rural region, which provides the setting. Through allusions, mottos and quotations, a literary exchange is created with poets such as Rainer Maria Rilke and Werner Aspenström.
Among Forsström’s most important works is After Having Spent a Night Among Horses (1997), which includes poems addressed to the Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky. She enters into dialogue with him through quotations from his films and books, in which nature and the sea are constantly present. The book was awarded the Nordic Council’s literature prize for 1998, acclaimed as “a multileveled poetry collection with shades of humour and sorrow. It is thematically cohesive and musical with a strong adherence to the present.”
In 2003, the anthology I Studied Once at a Wonderful Faculty gathered the mature author’s three most important works: Snow Leopard (1987), The Parks (1992) and After Having Spent a Night Among Horses (1997). The volume was reissued in 2019. Forsström’s latest poetry collection is Anteckningar (“Notes”), published in 2018. It describes the painful mourning process following the loss of a grandchild.
Forsström has been awarded a number of prizes and distinctions. In addition to those already mentioned are the Pro Finlandia Medal 1991, the Swedish Academy’s Finland Prize 1992, the Längman culture fund prize 1988, the Swedish literary society in Finland’s (SLS) Tollander prize 1998, the Swedish Academy’s Bellman Prize 2003 and Samfundet De Nios (The Nine Society) Grand Prize 2007. Her poems have been translated into about thirty languages.