Johanna Venho

- Finland -

Johanna Venho (1971) is one of the most prominent poets of the younger generation of Finnish poets. She debuted in 1998 with a collection of Saturn Post (Postia Saturnukseen), where the author explores the theme of motherhood, the bond and the relationship between nature and human beings, and between the adult and the child, in its forms more various. In 2001 he won the Critics Award as "artistic breakthrough of the year" with his second collection "Without map" (Ilman karttaa, 2000). The themes already present in the first collection, here are enriched by features and intertextual dimension of a deep ethical and ecological. In recent years, Venho was also dedicated to children's literature, as evidenced by the books "Oculus and the people of the night " (Okulus ja yöihmiset, 2003), which won both the prize of WSOY and the  Arvid Lydecken Award, Oculus and the house of Livia (Okulus Livian ja talo, 2004), Oculus and the secret of the house of apple (Okulus ja Omenamökin salaisuus, 2006); always of the 2006 the collection of poems and rhymes Puolukkavarvas (Hallux blueberry), a children's book illustrated by Anne Peltola. The collection of Venho, "All of a party" (Yhtä juhlaa, 2006), received many national awards  more prosaic,  with direct references to popular tradition. His latest collection is here, "there is light" (tax on Valo), where the word light can be interpreted both as a noun and as a personal name both as a reference to some extent undefined.

The poetry of Johanna Venho revolves in the borderland of everyday, the infinite and the hidden. In her four collections Venho often deals with a woman’s life from different perspectives: growing up to womanhood, the bodily experience of becoming a mother, accompanying her offspring.


Past and present are entwined in Venho’s poetry; she is interested in Finnish folklore, nature and instincts, but also in the way that different layers of culture history mark our diction.


Rhythm plays an important role in Venho’s poetry. She has performed in numerous poetry readings both in Finland and abroad and likes to read her works out loud. “Meeting the reader is very important to me”, Venho says. “I feel that my translators have reached the rhythm and tone of my poems - I can easily hear it. It is possible to sense the poem through the rhythm and tone of the words nevertheless one does not understand the language.”


In her first collection Postia Saturnukseen (Mail to Saturn) Venho followed the tradition of modernism; the bright and clear images of these poems define the borderlines of youth and adulthood. The world is a rough place and one has to build up shell in order to protect oneself. But what is the cost of maturing? 


In her second book Ilman karttaa (Without a map) Venho moves towards aphoristic expression, although these poems are quite pictorial as well. Seemingly unimportant things become significant at a closer look. When first published, the collection received Kritiikin kannukset, a prize the Finnish Critics’ Association grants for artistic breakthrough of the year.  In the grounds for the prize the jury praised Venho for being the eminent one amongst young poets with a strong voice of her own, whose poetry describes the borderland of childhood and adulthood in a heart-rending way. If Venho’s first collection was all about intuition, her technique had now matured to be more powerful in style and her voice reached a clearly weighed tone. The themes of her second collection lie in the “self” meeting others and the consequences of this. Traditional roles are being broken and otherwise rough experiences described with skilful wording.


Venho’s third collection Yhtä juhlaa (It’s all a celebration) reaches towards the form of storytelling.  Her intention is to describe the moods and layers of everyday life and motherhood.  Says Venho:


“‘The everyday’– the word is often used pejoratively, but I’ve tried to make the everyday sing. Insignificant-looking things can form into a significant whole. A person’s tested in the flow of everyday life, where everything’s floating along, the past, the present, stories and songs. The everyday shapes a person, and finally the greatest satisfaction is found there.”


In this book Venho’s poetic language is full of happenings, and, however paradoxical it might seem, surrender to it is the only way to survive everything. There are no permanent or correct responses, and floundering about in the current one comes up against all sorts of things. “If you get into difficulties, you have to resort to a song or an incantation”, Venho says.


The third book published, an Italian publishing house Edizioni Atelieri took an interest in Venho’s poetry. Selected poems Virtuosi Incantesimi translated by Antionio Parente was published in 2006. Parente has since translated poems from Venho’s fourth collection Tässä on valo (Here is the light). Venho has also been translated into English, German, French, Slovenian and Czech. Translations of her poetry have been heard in poetry readings and festivals and been published in festival anthologies.


In the beginning of 2015 Venho begun as ”Aphorist of the Month” in Turun Sanomat – a large Finnish newspaper – where she writes an aphorism every other week.  These aphorisms are likely to be published in the series of publications by the Finnish Aphorism Association Pilke.


In 2006 Venho was awarded the Katri Vala poetry prize in Finland. She has also received the triennial Einari Vuorela Prize which is the greatest poetry recognition in Finland. Johanna Venho’s publisher in Finland is WSOY.