Having recently enjoyed reading Marly Youman‘s most magical tale Glimmerglass and while still feeling dreamy over it as I perused more of our recent westcoast travel photos, the above images seemed to call out their own glimmerings.

I love her phrase to describe an artist as ‘pursuer of mystery’ (page 35). She is a writer who understands artists! I also love the cover and illustrations by Clive Hicks-Jenkins. A highly recommended read!

Sibelius 150th anniversary


The above is part of a poster about a wonderful event we attended on Sunday (Feb.8th) at the Scandinavian Centre in Burnaby. It was organized and presented by members of our local chapter of The Canadian Friends of Finland. Most interesting and educational was the talk and slide show about Sibelius’ early life, which is generally less well-known. Bob Poutt told us about Glenda Goss, an American musicologist who went to Finland to research Sibelius’ life and music, eventually publishing Sibelius: A Composer’s Life and the Awakening of Finland. She learned Finnish and became a professor at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. Somehow I had missed a lecture by Ms.Goss at the Centre in March, 2013.

Mr. Poutt’s young grandsons acted out delightful scenes of a young Sibelius being interviewed by a reporter, set against a slide show. The audience was charmed.

The Centre’s excellent long-running Runeberg Chorus performed many songs by Sibelius, in English, Finnish and Swedish (Sibelius’ first language). Two wonderful solos were the highlights, Diamond on the March Snow sung by tenor Yasushi Ishimura and Luonnotar by Kaoru Henry, each with glorious visuals on the background screen. Our favourite was the latter thanks to the singer’s professional operatic voice. Luonnotar is based on Finnish mythology, the words coming from the Kalevala. The text is from the first part of the Kalevala and deals with the creation of the world, Luonnotar is the Spirit of Nature and Mother of the Seas.

It was a moving program and a wonderful afternoon of friendship as we were surprised by how many friends were there. Congratulations to all the organizers and performers! I wonder who did the superb visuals for the slide show?

I am so inspired that I hope to get my hands on the book, in fact I put in a purchase request for it at our library. Jean Sibelius was part of a group of many artists, poets and writers who are all Finland’s greatest creators. This 150th Anniversary is being widely celebrated in Finland and beyond with numerous concerts, but only one that we know of here in Vancouver – we must request more.

Of course there are many recordings available for purchase as well as online listening available, such as at Finland’s YLE Radio, where I’ve been slowly enjoying his seven symphonies. The first three highlighted on the page are performances by the Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sakari Oramo and presented in 2006 in Bergen, Norway. Just below these is a link to Symphonies 4 to 7, also by the above except for No. 5 performed in Helsinki. Enjoy!

Yle also has a site Sibelius 150 mostly in Finnish but with some pages in English (scroll down). Even further down is also an audio interview of Glenda Goss in English. (I wish the individual articles were hyperlinked.) I’ve only just discovered this so will be busy reading these articles!

I must also mention an excellent blog which I’ve been enjoying reading for some time. Dust of Hue is devoted entirely to Sibelius, written by a serious and knowledgeable fan who lives in Singapore I think. He has even visited Sibelius’ home Ainola.

Finally, two related posts from my archives: Saariaho and Sibelius (with a photo of Ainola) and Sibelius…the Last Swan.



My first language is Finnish but opportunities to speak it are now rare. Reading it at so many good blogs and news sites on the internet helps to keep me somewhat literate. One favourite place, though in English, is Books from Finland, ‘a journal of writing from and about Finland’.

Yesterday’s article particularly interested me: Why translate? by British poet Herbert Lomas (1924–2011) who was a prolific translator from Finnish. He describes the work and knowledge and understanding of language differences in order to capture the author’s intent. The following excerpts intrigued me and challenged my own rusty linguistic understanding of my mother tongue:

There are many differences between Finnish and English. Leaving aside for the moment the extraordinary disparity between Teutonic syntax and Finno-Ugrian syntax, the vocabulary alone puts you into a different climate and weather. Vowels are musical notes and Finnish is full of vowels.

Consonants are noises – and English is full of consonants. Finnish words are all stressed on the first syllable. English words simply alternate stressed and unstressed syllables – and the word may begin with unstress or stress. Finnish lends itself to dactyls. Dactyls have never been much at home in English. Most English poetry is written in iambs, with trochees coming second, a few anapaestic poems, usually not very good; and not even Hiawatha, imitating the Kalevala, resorted to the dactyl. But Finnish words are all Finnish – either invented from existing roots or naturalised beyond recognition.

Do read on if this subject interests you. Most of us know that the Finnish language is a difficult one for outsiders to learn so I have great respect for translators like Lomas and others who have mastered the language enough to note subtleties, especially in poetry.

More articles by Herbert Lomas here and about him and his list of works here.

Related posts on the Finnish language can be found in my archives under Linguistics.

PS: I just noticed that Herbert Lomas also translated Troll: a love story by Finnish author Johanna Sinisalo, which I was ever so lucky to find in our local library and enjoyed reading. It is rare to find Finnish books here.

gift books


Santa left two fabulous books under the tree for me: Marly Youmans’ Glimmerglass and a Phaidon monograph about artist Anselm Kiefer.

I already own and love some of Marly’s books and admire the illustrations by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, so this was a must on my wish list!

After recently writing about Anselm Kiefer’s huge exhibition in London and feeling sad that I could not go and see it, I desired a monograph or catalogue. The large Royal Academy publication looks stunning but is rather expensive with the shipping on top so after some research I chose this Phaidon edition, though smaller, for Santa to bring me.

Touching and admiring their beautiful covers (Marly’s book especially!) and browsing through to enjoy the images inside give me great pleasure while I wait to start reading each once I’ve finished my current library book.

Did you receive books at Christmas?

good reading


This fall’s rainy days and dark evenings have been perfect to cosy up with some good books. Here’s a short list of some that I have been enjoying:

1. Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos – this review says it all for me, though perhaps reveals too much of the story. Chapter 25 was most compelling for me with its vivid description of the creative process of breaking and remaking. This book was recommended by a reader in a comment to one of my many posts on broken china. The image above is a reposting of one such “break”.

2. How Many Roads? by Jonathan Sa’adah is a gorgeous book of his stunning sepia photographs taken in the late 60s and early 70s. My husband and I enjoyed revisiting that time from our youth when from a distance we read and heard about what was happening below the border from us in Canada. Wonderful essays too. We highly recommend it. Order from Phoenicia Publishing. We are very pleased to support our friends Jonathan and Beth Adams and to have this treasure to remember them by.

3. I wrote about Emily Carr recently and felt inspired to reread, afer many decades, her books Klee Wyck and The House of All Sorts – such sweet pleasures still underway.

books & films


A delicious benefit of the hot lazy days of summer is that I indulge in much more reading than I have time for in other times of the year. I like having longer periods of uninterrupted time so that I don’t forget storylines and long lists of characters. Below is a list of the books I enjoyed the most, some readings going back to spring. Except for the last one, all were borrowed from our local library as I rarely purchase fiction.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Chosen thanks to this review.

Canada by Richard Ford. Much intrigued by the title when mentioned by Joe Hyam.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Recommended by Susan.

A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness. I hope the next book in her trilogy comes out soon!

Picture Maker by Penina Keen Spinka. I wish my library had the sequels!

Troll: A Love Story by Johanna Sinisalo, a translation from the Finnish language. A review.

The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon (she lives near Vancouver). I am looking forward to the sequel, The Sweet Girl, see Lyon’s blog.

Val/Orson by Marly Youmans. The only book on this list that I have purchased.

And here are a couple of films on DVD that we have recently enjoyed very much:

Life of Pi based on an award winning novel by Canadian Yann Martel.

The Big Fish, a revisit.

Also, the Canadian Murdoch Mysteries TV series has become an addiction for me while I am on my exercise bike. Some reruns from TV, DVDs from library, and now the past season online. Will watch for season 7 starting soon!

And what have you been reading and watching this summer?

a German cookbook






I have been peeking into some of my late mother-in-law’s boxes which my husband brought home from her house, now sold. Her obviously very old handwritten cookbook intrigued me, reminding me a little of my mother’s Finnish cookbook.

While my mother’s book was a published one, “Omi’s” is all handwritten by many different hands in an originally blank and indexed book. I imagine that her mother, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and friends may have written many of these, perhaps for her when she was a new bride, or when she was emigrating to Canada. The handwriting is exquisite and often seeming too tiny to read.

I don’t recognize her handwriting in the book itself unless it changed later, though some of the loose slips may be by her hand. Like in my mother’s cookbook there are numerous slips of loose recipes and clippings inserted throughout, and some glued in, like the one above with Gothic text. My German is poor, and the handwriting hard to read (even husband has trouble) but I do recognize a lot of kuchen (cake) recipes! Omi loved to bake cakes so I’m not surprised.

on Marly Youmans’ Thaliad


I have recently finished a second reading of Thaliad, called a post-apocalyptic epic in blank verse. Marly’s writing swept me into another world with her beautiful language and her storytelling magic. Here’s one of my favourite passages:

The glare threw flames of dazzle, dazzle cast
Uncanny aura, aura beckoned dream,
and dream was drowned by day and brought tide
Of gold in spilling flood, to flood the mind
Until no mind was minding anything
But lapping radiance, and radiance
Ruled Glimmerglass and flashing form, the form
Of something weird, making and unmaking,
Unmaking Thalia till Thalia
Was empty husk, and husk was packed with sun,
And sun was sealed in trembling dark, and dark
Arose in dreams, and dreams made lucent night.

(from Chapter XVI, page 62-3)

To me, these words seem like waves repeatedly washing ashore. That repetition and rhythm made me think of The Kalevala, a 19th-century work of epic poetry compiled by Elias Lönnrot from Finnish and Karelian oral folklore and mythology.

I first learned about Marly’s book as a follower of her blog The Palace at 2:00 a.m.. And about Clive Hicks-Jenkins‘ unique and beautiful illustrations for it. Edited and published by my friend Beth Adams for her own Phoenicia Publishing in Montreal, it is truly a collaboration between three artists.

I’m no good at book reviews but could not let this go by without a mention and a recommendation, dear readers. For a fine review, please read this.

Last year, I wrote a bit about Marly Youman’s novel A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, which I also enjoyed and read twice. There’s something about her writing that I enjoy reading most during the night hours (2 a.m.?) perhaps when the magic feels strongest.

Added January 26th, 2013: Clive Hicks-Jenkins has posted about “a glittering review of Thaliad” at the book blog Tomcat in the Red Room. It really is fabulous. As I commented, it made me feel relieved that my dismal knowledge of the classics and other related literature did not matter for my enjoyment of the book.

Later: forgot to add that Beth has picked up this post of mine to include in Phoenicia’s blog here. I am honoured to be in such good company over there!



Interesting date today, isn’t it? This sent me for a quick look through my archives for posts on past December 12s. On December 12th, 2005, I wrote about juggling the many roles in my life in this busiest time of the year. Not much has changed though I do try to do a little less. In 2008, I wrote about snow, with a rather lovely photo if I say so myself.

No snow today, in fact we even had some rare sunshine so we were able to put some outdoor lights on shrubs by the front steps and hang the door wreath. I clipped cedar branches to tuck in the wreath and in some pots by the door. Let the snow come at Christmas.

Today an article in our local paper titled ‘Santa butts out’ piqued my interest. To quote:
Pam McColl has self-published her own edited version of the classic ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, taking out the line about Santa smoking. Now she’s getting international attention and the book is being endorsed by the Canadian Cancer Society.

The two lines that were excised:
“The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
“And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.”

Read more in the Vancouver Sun (hope you can see it without registration).


With low energy and needing to catch up with other things, I want to just quickly share several exciting-to-me links I’ve been enjoying this week, on the subjects of archaeology, art and story writing:

1. Lascaux’s Picassos – What prehistoric art tells us about the evolution of the human brain. A gorgeous slide show and many great links on a favourite subject of mine, and something I’ve written about a few times before.

2. Cuts that heal: Barbara Hepworth’s hospital drawings. I love her sculpture. Now seeing her fantastic drawings in the provided slide show puts her in the class of the Renaissance artists in my book! The second work Concentration of Hands II is my favourite. I had many of the same thoughts as Jonathan Jones mentions in his review (link on the side). How I wish I could go see this exhibition.

3. Margaret Atwood joins the zombie craze:

Just in time for Halloween, Canada’s most decorated literary doyenne – Margaret Atwood – has co-written a serialized zombie novel with a promising British author that will be posted chapter by chapter at the Canadian-based story-sharing website Wattpad.

I’m not into zombies but curiousity sent me to check out Wattpad and The Happy Zombie Sunrise Home where the first three parts are up. I read, I laughed, I will be back.