“Word upon a Word”: Parallelism, Meaning, and Emergent Structure in Kalevala-meter Poetry


This essay treats parallelism as a means for articulating and communicating meaning in performance. Rather than a merely stylistic and structural marker, parallelism is discussed as an expressive and cognitive strategy for the elaboration of notions and cognitive categories that are vital in the culture and central for the individual performers. The essay is based on an analysis of short forms of Kalevala-meter poetry from Viena Karelia: proverbs, aphorisms, and lyric poetry. In the complex system of genres using the same poetic meter parallelism transformed genres and contributed to the emergence of cohesive and finalized performances.



Fig. 1. Anni Lehtonen (1866-1943). SKS KRA photo collection, Paulaharju 5413.9.

Photo by Samuli Paulaharju, 1915.

Fig. 2. Anni Lehtonen’s string of proverbs on the intertwining notions of poverty, sorrow and song make up a continuation of the poem The Self Wouldn’t (Fig. 3) (SKS KRA. Paulaharju c)9614-9620. 1915).

Photo by author.

Fig. 3. The Self Wouldn’t (SKS KRA. Paulaharju c)9611-13. 1915).

Photo by author.

Fig. 4. Reconstruction of the sung performance of Anni Lehtonen’s The Widow’s Song.

Recorded at the Finnish Literature Society, February 28, 2017.

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