The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 5, No 3 (2017)

The Witch on a Vespa (and the case of the Kinetic Potatoes): Nonsense strategies and translation of Kirsi Kunnas’s poem ”Mr Pii Poo”

Sirke Happonen


It has been suggested that in nonsense literature the form sometimes directs the events of the story (Tigges 1988, Lecercle 1994). Translation of a poem may make this even more evident, as with „Mr Pii Poo” (1956, originally “Herra Pii Poo”), a poem by the Finnish author Kirsi Kunnas, born in 1924. „Mr Pii Poo” tells a story about a magician in a conflict between rural and urban elements, a figure who is introduced also as a witch and who could at the same time be interpreted as an alter ego for the poet Kunnas. In this poem, Kirsi Kunnas binds a bizarre bundle of rhymed and free verses around the Finnish word noita (a witch) and its multiple uses as a noun, a pronoun and a case ending. Sirke Happonen discusses nonsense elements of this witty and whimsical poem by describing its translation process from Finnish into English – a piece of work she has done with the help of her nonsensical colleagues. (As a small epilogue, Happonen presents a „movable reading” of another poem by Kunnas called “Kattila ja perunat”, „The Pan and the Potatoes”.)


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