In Ontto harmaa (in English: “Hollow grey”) the letter “o” recurs frequently, sometimes as a symbol or an empty space, sometimes as a person. Fragment by fragment, the collection also seems to draw the shape of a ring with its simple beauty and infinite movement.
The poet wanders close to the reader at all times, observing and exploring the language, thoughts, phenomena, and beings in the world. The reflections are pleasantly elegant yet playful in their simplicity. The lines are free-flowing, yet they follow one another with a calm assurance and always pregnant with meaning and ambiguity.
Tennilä’s poetry grows in the no-man’s land between the transparent and the obscure, in a lush terrain of ever-changing perspectives and sudden insights, where one’s gaze is drawn to the random. Islands are compared to thoughts, the work of an ant to that of an artist, observations reveal themselves and then duck out of sight – they exist even when they remain hidden to us. Language and the world are one and accompany each other throughout the work.
Out on the ocean, it’s hard to believe that the weather could change
It’s hard to believe that the conditions could change in the way
that they change.
As a poet and thinker, Tennilä can be regarded as a successor to Heraclitus and Mirkka Rekola, and both philosophy and natural sciences are woven naturally into the collection. Modest and down to earth Ontto harmaa is, above all, poetry that lives and breathes – it is self-illuminating work in which philosophy imagination, and concrete observations meet in language, creating a uniquely fully-formed and organic whole.
Ontto harmaa is timeless and brilliant poetry whose every line will appeal to the reader in new ways. It demonstrates the inevitability that depth is close at hand, in the small and the simple – and that the fringes can accommodate all that is needed, and more.
Tennilä himself printed the Finnish-language edition using a Heidelberg high-pressure printing press. The time-consuming work of printing can be compared to the work of thinking and setting the typeface, which can in turn be compared to the momentary arrangement of observations. Similarly, the language leaves its mark – a light imprint on the paper, like the tracks of an animal.
Does it bother you if there’s an extremely intelligent animal in the room? An animal that is said to be extremely intelligent.
Or if it’s not an animal. It’s mute – in any case, and doesn’t say a thing.
Hardly even thinks.
It doesn’t need to.
Olli-Pekka Tennilä (born 1980) published his first poetry collection Ololoin 2008 (ntamo). His subsequent collection, Yksinkeltainen on kaksinkeltaista (Poesia 2012), was awarded the Runeberg Prize for Literature. This his third work, Ontto Harmaa, was selected as the Finnish Aphorism Book of the Year in 2016. Tennilä is also one of the founding members and the publishing manager of the Osuuskunta Poesia co-operative publishing house. For almost eight years Poesia has been a pioneer in co-operative publishing in Finland.