Dear Ms. Hacker,
My name is Julianna and I go to school in Stockton, CA. I am in eighth grade. The purpose of this letter is to share my feelings on your poem, "Rune of the Finland Woman," and ask you some questions regarding it. My class did a reading of multiple poems and yours stood out to me the most.
I feel that your poem is referring to a person or place (of symbolic value) that is strong. Strong enough to "bind the world's winds in a single strand." What immediately stood out to me when I saw this poem was the repetition. I feel that the repetition aspect intrigues readers which is something that I really enjoyed. I am not sure, but from my perspective I see that this poem is representing a woman (or other) that is optimistic and pushes through the many obstacles of life, with a kind soul and open heart. I also envisioned this person as being very maternally and caring.
I think that your poem matters, because it is very empowering. By reading this poem one could infer that whoever is being referenced is strong and powerful, yet humble and modest. I feel that your words are very symbolic and if one is to analyze and look deeper, they could find a lot of deep meaning. It is important that people read your poem, to feel confident and strive to become better people. This person almost seems as the ideal human being who found happiness in the smallest of things, which I feel is a treasure beyond compare.
I also would like to thank you for creating a poem that can especially empower women around the world. I was wondering if you would be so kind as to respond to some of my inquiries:
What or who inspired you to write this poem?
What is the meaning of the title of this poem?
How did you come upon writing poetry?
Yes, there is a real person “behind” this poem: her name was Sara Karig, she was Hungarian, and lived from 1917 until 1999. She was an active leftist resistant during the occupation of Hungary by the Nazis—among other actions, she found food for the overcrowded orphanages in Budapest which also housed children of Jews and Communists who had been deported to concentration camps, who managed to leave their children behind intuiting that they would fare better as orphans than deported. She survived the war. She was later was herself deported to Siberia by the Stalinist government for being the “wrong kind of Communist “ (a Trotskyist ), survived life in a labor camp, and was eventually decorated as a war hero. She worked as a journalist and translator—from Russian, Bulgarian and English into Hungarian. I knew her in France in the 1980s, where she often visited a Hungarian expatriate who directed an international artists’ and writers’ colony.
The “Finland Woman” of the title comes from the Hans Christian Andersen story “The Snow Queen,” which had very little to do with the Disney cartoon of the same name! In the story, there’s a young girl named Gerda who goes on a quest to rescue her friend Kay, a boy who has been carried off by the Snow Queen. Perhaps you’ve read it or had it read to yourself when you were younger? Gerda has all sorts of adventures on the way to the Snow Queen’s palace, with robbers, talking animals, a witch , a princess… In the story, the Finland Woman is a kind of good witch or shaman who lives on the border of the North Pole. Gerda arrives there riding a talking reindeer, who says to the Finland Woman “You are so wise, you could bind the winds of the world in a single strand ! Can you help her?” And the Finland Woman replies “She’s come this far on her own – I think she can help herself !” I loved this story when I was small because it WAS a quest story about a girl who used her wits and had adventures. There’s a sequence of poems I wrote based on it (when I was no longer a child) that’s now in a collection of (my) selected poems.
I began writing poetry because I loved reading poetry—something that went from nursery rhymes and Dr. Seuss books to the poems in Alice in Wonderland/ Through the Looking Glass and in Kipling’s Just So Stories, to English and Scottish ballads of adventure, love and mystery, to reading, when I was eleven or twelve, poets like Robert Frost , Edna St Vincent Millay, Robert Browning – who all also told stories in poems—and a little later, Dylan Thomas, e.e. cummings, Shakespeare’s sonnets, Gwendolyn Brooks, Marianne Moore’s poems that were sometimes like fables, W.H. Auden, and La Fontaine’s fables in French, which I was studying. I remember the excitement in our high school classroom when one boy had acquired a copy of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” and passed it around under the desks for us all to read. There was not too much poetry in my junior high and high school literature curriculum—which was a shame, I thought, even then. But I was lucky enough to have a librarian at the local public library who was aware of my interest and would suggest books of poetry she thought I might like or ought to know, that I could borrow.