Esa Hirvonen (b. 1969) is a poet and journeyman who has found his home in Turku. His first book, Harlem, appeared in 2001. His collection of palindromic poems Takana kapakan akat (“The Broads Back of the Bar”) was published a year later. Hirvonen cites Gregory Corso and Dan Fante as influences for this new collection, his third, entitled The Hunger of the Urals. Hirvonen is one of the strongest and most original poetic voices of Turku street poetry today. Fast-moving, prosaic poetry is Hirvonen’s word and life’s colour is his emphasis. His poetry has been translated into English, Estonian, Udmurt, Slovenian and Italian. As well as being an active performer, Hirvonen is the chairman of the Poetry Week Association of Southwest Finland.
Esa Hirvonen’s poetry [Harlem] carries one of the strongest messages of all the social poets. His poems give voice to the marginalised members of society, to alcoholics, drug addicts and other problem cases.
– Rita Dahl, Turun Sanomat
We have long suspected that the basic themes of social poetry in the 2000s would follow Hirvonen’s lines; instead of party-political sulking and parroting dogmatic slogans he writes empathetic descriptions of those who have dropped out of the rat race.
– Jani Saxell, Kiiltomato.net
Behind Hirvonen’s poetry [Harlem] lurk the enthusiastic shade of Bukowski and the eight spirits of Melleri. (…) The thing is Hirvonen writes well. Harlem swings and breathes. The text isn’t overwrought. Hirvonen’s trench coat is on inside out and his breath smells, but the guy spins such fascinating and heartfelt tales that you don’t want to switch tables.
– Suonna Kononen, Karjalainen
The taste of life is in Hirvonen’s poems, even if the aftertaste is of whiskey and cigarettes.
–Terhi Rannela, Urjalan Sanomat
The Hunger of the Urals is a collection of frantic jump-cuts from the forests of the Urals to Cape Town’s trendiest hotel and from Viennese coffee shops to Siberian delirium. Esa Hirvonen’s bohemian hobo heads off on mind-blowing shamanic voyages but ends up in a Turku trade school, going from riches to poverty and from pepper vodka to a job in a hotel kitchen. The poet often finds that reality doesn’t measure up to his grand dreams.
Hirvonen’s new poetry collection is full of sharply self-deprecating, melancholy, intimate and amusing stories from his world travels, but also represents a boldly substantive critique of the state of the world. His prose-poems are coloured with countless references to culture and politics, acquaintances and strangers. The poems’ protagonist is awestruck by Elena’s eyes in the dining car of a Russian train, troubled by his own alcohol-swollen liver, shaken by the smouldering inequalities of Africa.
Original name: Uralin nälkä
Publisher: Savukeidas 2011
Softcover 140 x 210 mm
ISBN 978-952-268 -004-4
Cover design: Ville Hytönen