Hollo, Anselm (Paul Alexis)

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HOLLO, Anselm (Paul Alexis)

Also wrote as Anton Hofman and Sergei Bielyi. Nationality: Finnish. Born: Helsinki, Finland, 12 April 1934. Education: Attended schools in Helsinki, and in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Helsinki University; University of Tübingen, Germany, 1952–56. Family: Married 1) Josephine Wirkus in 1957; one son and two daughters; 2) Jane Dalrymple in 1985. Career: Commercial correspondent for a Finnish lumber export company, and interpreter, United Nations Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, both 1950s; translator and book reviewer for German and Finnish periodicals, and secretary to grandfather, Professor Paul Walden, University of Tübingen, Germany, 1955–58; program assistant and coordinator, BBC, London, 1958–66. Visiting lecturer, State University of New York, Buffalo, Summers 1967, 1969; visiting lecturer, 1968–69, lecturer in English and music, 1970–71, and head of the translation workshop, 1971–72, University of Iowa, Iowa City; visiting professor and/or poet, Bowling Green University, Ohio, 1972–73, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, New York, 1973–74, Michigan State University, East Lansing, 1975, University of Maryland, Baltimore, 1975–77, and Southwest State University, Marshall, Minnesota, 1977–78, Sweet Briar College, Virginia, 1978–81, Naropa Institute, Boulder, Colorado, 1981–84; lecturer, New College of California, San Francisco, 1981–83. Since 1989 associate professor, writing and poetics, Naropa Institute. Former contributing editor, Modern Poetry in Translation, London, and New Letters, Kansas City, Missouri; poetry editor, Iowa Review, Iowa City, 1971–72. Awards: Creative Artists Public Service award, 1976; Yaddo fellowship, 1978; National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, 1979; Witter Bynner fellowship, 1979; American-Scandinavian Foundation award, for translation, 1980, 1989. Address: c/o Writing and Poetics, The Naropa Institute, 2130 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, Colorado 80302, U.S.A.



Sateiden Valilla (Rainpause). Helsinki, Otava, 1956.

St. Texts and Finnpoems. Birmingham, Migrant Press, 1961.

Loverman. New York, Dead Language Press, 1961.

We Just Wanted to Tell You. London, Writers Forum, 1963.

And What Else Is New. Chatham, Kent, New Voice, 1963.

History. London, Matrix Press, 1964.

Trobar: Loytaa (Trobar: To Find). Helsinki, Otava, 1964.

Here We Go. Newcastle upon Tyne, Strangers Press, 1965.

And It Is a Song. Birmingham, Migrant Press, 1965.

Faces and Forms. London, Ambit, 1965.

The Claim. London, Goliard Press, 1966.

For the Sea: Sons and Daughters We All Are. Privately printed, 1966.

The Going-On Poem. London, Writers Forum, 1966.

Poems/Runoja (bilingual edition). Helsinki, Otava, 1967.

Isadora and Other Poems. London, Writers Forum, 1967.

Leaf Times. Exeter, Exeter Books, 1967.

Buffalo-Isle of Wight Power Cable. Buffalo, State University of New York, 1967.

The Man in the Tree-Top Hat. London, Turret, 1968.

The Coherences. London, Trigram Press, 1968.

Tumbleweed. Toronto, Weed/Flower Press, 1968.

Haiku, with John Esam and Tom Raworth. London, Trigram Press, 1968.

Waiting for a Beautiful Bather: Ten Poems. Milwaukee, Morgan Press, 1969.

Maya: Works 1959–1969. London, Cape Goliard Press, and New York, Grossman, 1970.

America del Norte and Other Peace Herb Poems. Toronto, Weed/Flower Press, 1970.

Message. Santa Barbara, California, Unicorn Press, 1970.

Gee Apollinaire. Iowa City, Nomad Press, 1970.

Sensation 27. Canton, New York, Institute of Further Studies, 1972.

Alembic. London, Trigram Press, 1972.

Smoke Writing. Storrs, University of Connecticut Library, 1973.

Spring Cleaning Greens, from Notebooks 1967–1973. Bowling Green, Ohio, Doones Press, 1973.

Surviving with America, with Jack Marshall and Sam Hamod. Iowa City, Cedar Creek Press, 1974.

Some Worlds. New Rochelle, New York, Elizabeth Press, 1974.

Black Book 1. Bowling Green, Ohio, Bowling Green State University, 1975.

Sojourner Microcosms: New and Selected Poems 1959–1977. Berkeley, California, Blue Wind Press, 1977.

Heavy Jars. West Branch, Iowa, Toothpaste Press, 1977.

Phantom Pod, with Joe Cardarelli and Kirby Malone. Baltimore, pod, n.d.

Lingering Tangos. Baltimore, Tropos Press, 1977.

Lunch in Fur. St. Paul, Minnesota, Aquila Rose, 1978.

Curious Data. Buffalo, White Pine Press, 1978.

With Ruth in Mind. Barrytown, New York, Station Hill Press, 1979.

Finite Continued: New Poems 1977–1980. Berkeley, California, Blue Wind Press, 1980.

No Complaints. West Branch, Iowa, Toothpaste Press, 1983.

Pick Up the House. Minneapolis, Coffee House Press, 1986.

Outlying Districts. Minneapolis, Coffee House Press, 1990.

Near Miss Haiku. Chicago, Yellow Press, 1990.

Space Baltic. Mountain View, California, Ocean View Press, 1991.

Blue Ceiling. Lawrence, Kansas, Tansy Press, 1992.

High Beam. Riverdale, Maryland, Pyramid Atlantic, 1993.

West Is Left on the Map, with Jane Dalrymple-Hollo. Boulder, Colorado, Dead Metaphor Press, 1993.

Corvus: Poems. Minneapolis, Minnesota, Coffee House Press, 1995.

Survival Dancing. Boulder, Colorado, Rodent Press, 1995.

Ahoe: (And How on Earth). Erie, Colorado, Smokeproof Press, 1997.

Polemics. Brooklyn, New York, Autonomedia, 1998.

Caws and Causeries around Poetry and Poets. Albuquerque, New Mexico, La Alameda Press, 1999.

Recording: The Coherences, Stream Records, 1969.


In the Jungle of Cities, adaptation of a play by Brecht (produced New York, 1977). New York, Grove Press, 1966.


The Minicab War (parodies), with Gregory Corso and Tom Raworth. London, Matrix Press, 1961.

Editor and Translator, Kaddisch, by Allen Ginsberg. Wiesbaden, Limes, 1962.

Editor and Translator, Red Cats: Selections from the Russian Poets. San Francisco, City Lights, 1962.

Editor, Jazz Poems. London, Vista, 1963.

Editor and Translator, In der Fluchtigen Hand der Zeit, by Gregory Corso. Wiesbaden, Limes, 1963.

Editor and Translator, Huuto ja Muita Runoja, by Allen Ginsberg. Turku, Finland, Tajo, 1963.

Editor and Translator, Kuolema van Goghin Korvalle, by Allen Ginsberg. Turku, Finland, Tajo, 1963.

Editor, Negro Verse. London, Vista, 1964.

Editor and Translator, Selected Poems, by Andrei Voznesensky. New York, Grove Press, 1964.

Editor and Translator, Word from the North: New Poetry from Finland. Blackburn, Lancashire, Screeches Press, 1965.

Editor and Translator, Helsinki: Selected Poems, by Pentti Saarikoski. London, Rapp and Whiting, 1967.

Editor and Translator, Selected Poems, by Paavo Haavikko. London, Cape Goliard Press, and New York, Grossman, 1968.

Editor and Translator, The Twelve and Other Poems, by Aleksandr Blok. Lexington, Kentucky, Gnomon Press, 1971.

Editor and Translator, with Gunnar Harding, Modern Swedish Poetry in Translation. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1979.

Translator, Some Poems, by Paul Klee. Lowestoft, Suffolk, Scorpion Press, 1962.

Translator, Hispanjalainen Jakovainaa, by John Lennon. Helsinki, Otava, 1966.

Translator, 491, by Lars Görling. New York, Grove Press, 1966.

Translator, In the Dark, Move Slowly: Poems, by Tuomas Anhava. London, Cape Goliard Press, and New York, Grossman, 1969.

Translator, with Sidney Berger, Thrymskvitha (Icelandic Skald). Iowa City, Windhover Press, 1970.

Translator, with Josephine Clare, Paterson, by W.C. Williams. Stuttgart, Goverts, 1970.

Translator, with Elliott Anderson, Turbines: Twenty One Poems, by Tomaz Salamun. Iowa City, Windhover Press, 1973.

Translator, Querelle, by Jean Genet. New York, Grove Press, 1974.

Translator, Beautiful Days, by Franz Innerhofer. New York, Urizen, 1976.

Translator, Small Change, by François Truffaut. New York, Grove Press, 1976.

Translator, Years of Apprenticeship on the Couch, by Tillman Moser. New York, Urizen, 1977.

Translator, The Industrialized Traveller, by Wolfgang Schivelbusch. New York, Urizen, 1979.

Translator, The Railway Journey, by Wolfgang Schivelbusch. New York, Urizen, 1980.

Translator, August Strindberg, by Olof Lagerkrantz. New York, Farrar Straus, and London, Faber, 1984.

Translator, Poems 1958–1980, by Pentti Saarikoski. West Branch, Iowa, Toothpaste Press, 1984.

Translator, Women's Rites: Scenes from the Erotic Imagination, by Jeanne de Berg. New York, Grove Press, 1987.

Translator, Au Revoir les Enfants (Goodbye, Children), by Louis Malle. New York, Grove Press, 1988.

Translator, The Road to Ein Harod, by Amos Kenan. New York, Grove Press, 1988.

Translator, I, Eternal Child: Paintings and Poems, by Egon Schiele. New York, Grove Press, 1988.

Translator, The Whales in Lake Tanganyika, by Lennart Hagertors. New York, Grove Press, and London, Deutsch, 1989.

Translator, A Life Torn by History: Franz Werfel 1890–1945. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1990.

Translator, The Czar's Madman, by Jaan Kross. London, Harvill, 1991; New York, Pantheon, 1993.

Translator, The Rocket Mountain, by Udo Breger. Ostheim, Germany, Verlag Peter Engstler, 1992.

Translator, One Night Stands, by Rosa Liksom. London, Serpent's Tail, 1993.

Translator, Happy Birthday, Turk!, by Jakob Arjouni. New York, Fromm International, 1993.

Translator, Sarajevo: A War Journal, by Zlatko Dizdarevic. New York, Fromm International, 1993.

Translator, Professor Marten's Departure, by Jaan Kross. London, Harvill, and New York, The New Press, 1994

Translator, And Still Drink More!, Jakob Arjouni. New York, Fromm International, 1994.

Translator, The Poems, by Hipponax of Ephesus. Baltimore, Tropos Press, 1994.

Translator, One Man, One Murder, by Jakob Arjouni. Harpenden, No Exit, 1997.

Translator, Starfall: A Triptych, by Lars Kleberg. Evanston, Illinois, Northwestern University Press, 1997.

Translator, One Death to Die: A Kayankaya Mystery, by Jakob Arjouni. New York, Fromm International, 1997.

Translator, 20 Poems, by Lauri Otonkoski. Sausalito, California, Duration Press, 1999.

Other translations from German, French, and Swedish published.


Manuscript Collection: State University of New York, Buffalo.

Critical Studies: Interview with Barry Alpert, in Vort (Silver Spring, Maryland), 2, 1972; "On Translation" by Edward Foster, in Talisman (Jersey City, New Jersey), 6, Spring 1991; "Exiles" by Pekka Tarkka, in Books from Finland (Helsinki), 1, 1997.

Anselm Hollo comments:

(1970) Poems are given. They are also "graphs of a mind moving" (Philip Whalen). Each poem, if and when it works, is a singular, at times even unique, formal, emotional, intellectual entity, posing no problems to the poet beyond those contained in itself. The sources are in the poet's life, and that includes his reading, his given "place" at any given "time," his awareness of all animate and inanimate objects (and subjects) around him.

(1974) One way or another, most of us poets tend to aim for the "direct hit," that deeply satisfying "ouch!" of the inner gunfighter toppling over on the dusty little main street of the Reader's Heart. The temper of that hit is various. Inflated reputations are proposed on what in another medium, say painting or sculpture, would be instantly recognized and rejected as tearjerkers. However, no poet ever was, is, or will ever be in total control of his or her radar installation.

(1990) See you at our next event.

(1995) Ditto—but perhaps I should amplify that a little. The "events" I had in mind are the ones that occur between reader and writer (not "poetry slams" and such). "… For those of us," says Charles Olson in his Maximus Letter 5, "who do live our life quite properly in print /as properly, say, as Gloucester people live in Gloucester /you do meet someone /as I met you /on a printed page." My life in print has been lived, these past thirty-five years, in the world of the small press and the little magazine. By their very nature, their existence in a twilight zone between the truly mass-produced and the limited (intentional or unintentional) collector's item, the products of that world are eccentric, ephemeral, fugitive, and, at their best, carriers of the kind of transmission letters exchanged between artists and poets used to be in past centuries. As long as we believe that the life of words on a page exists in a realm different from the life of words on the phone, or on television or magnetic tape, we need the page, pages, books.

*  *  *

The poetry of Anselm Hollo is fun. Furthermore, in his later verse we come to expect the unexpected with every turn of the page, almost with every new line, and we are seldom disappointed. Of late years, too, his diction has become less "English" (meaning decorous) and more "American" (meaning slangy and colloquial). But his poetry always has been unadorned and keyed to the rhythms of common speech. He speaks, that is, as "one of us," not from a platform, and this is surprising in view of the years he spent as a program director with the BBC. Perhaps in his diction he is compensating for the fact that his father was an eminent professor of philosophy and theory of education at the University of Helsinki.

Hollo's career as a translator also began at the University of Helsinki, where he translated many European classics, including Cervantes, Dostoyevsky, and Henry James, into Finnish. I mention this because Hollo is still better known as a translator (especially for his magnificent translations into English of Aleksandr Blok and Andrey Voznesensky) than he is as a poet. Another fact delaying such recognition may be that Hollo is primarily a comic poet. (What is he laughing at? people ask themselves uneasily. Himself? Me? The world? The nature of things? T.S. Eliot never behaved like that). Can it be that people have been conditioned to expect poets to be serious and are at a loss with one who has an overmastering sense of the ridiculous, the absurd?

One of the recurrent themes in Sensation is the science fiction dream, which, it turns out, is only the old romantic pursuit of the blue flower in disguise:

   Let me tell you, the captain knew
   exactly what he would do
   soon as he reached the destination
   he would fuse with her
   plumulous essence
   & they would become a fine furry plant
   later travelers would run their sensors over
   to hear it hum
   "call me up in dreamland"
   by the old minstrel known as "the van"
   ultimate consummation of long ethereal affair
   he knew he would miss
   certain small addictions
   acquired in the colonies
   visual images baloney sandwiches
   but those would be minor deprivations
   hardly bothersome in the vita nuova
   he was flying high
   he was almost there
   & that is where
   we leave him to go hurtling through the great warp
   & at our own ineffable goals

A second recurrent theme is the goddess Maya, who is, the poet explains, "the energy /put forth in producing /the performance of the world." It follows, of course, that Hollo himself is an aspect of this goddess. It bucks a man up when he is eating out alone to think of himself as part of the cosmic force that makes possible "the performances of the world." Like the science fiction theme, the Maya theme is comic and cheerful, with romantic overtones.

On occasion Hollo pokes fun at a somber romantic classic, here Verlaine's "Il Pleur dans Mon Coeur": "after Verlaine /right now /it is raining in Iowa City /but it ain't rainin in my heart /nor on my head /because my head /it wears a big floppy heart, ha ha /it wears a big floppy heart." The tragic note enters Hollo's poetry only rarely and does so usually in his translations, and even then, as in this brief poem from the Finnish ("Tumbleweeds"), with an element of comic surprise: "go to the lakeshore go /throw in a feather and a stone /the stone floats /it is the day your son comes home." A quieter, more intimate tone prevails in some of his earlier lyrics, as in "Webern":

   switch off the light
   the trees stand together
   easier then
   to he in our bodies
   growing quietly
   "dem tode entgegen"
   slow it is
   a slow business
   to grow a few words
   to say love.

A traveler through many countries and languages, Hollo has a slightly off-planet slant on human affairs. Like Puck he is convinced of our absurdity, but like Oberon, beneficent. Of his diction Peter Schjedahl has commented, "His slight verbal hesitance succeeds in communicating the sense of a man anxious lest his words misrepresent his feelings." It is very important to this poet that such misunderstandings never occur. Verbal finery and decoration might get in the way of the laughter, the cheerfulness, the outgoing spirit.

—E.L. Mayo