Emmi Ketonen

Freelance translator, journalist and copy editor

Freelance translator, journalist and copy editor Emmi Ketonen enjoys the possibility to focus on her translation work in her workroom at Saari.

Photo: Jussi Virkkumaa

I mainly work as a freelance translator, journalist and copy editor. I do all sorts of things, however, which is why I sometimes just call myself a ‘text worker’.

At the Saari Residence, I can focus on starting my next project: translating a collection of poems by the Argentine Alejandra Pizarnik (1936–1972) into Finnish. Pizarnik is one of the country’s best known poets, having written nine poetry collections and one novel between 1955 and 1971. Generations after generations are drawn to her works.

Perhaps the best word to describe Pizarnik’s style is ‘tragic’. Her poems are about perpetual suffering, and she frequently revisits themes such as death, loneliness, feeling like an outsider and transcendence. The range of emotions in her works is also powerful and intense.

My approach is to build a discourse with both the original poet and scholars who have later analysed her works. This involves a lot of playing around with words. I want to use phrases that Pizarnik herself would have used if she had written her poems in Finnish. My goal is to really dissect her poetry. I need to understand not only what she wanted to say but also, and more importantly, how she gave her poems the impact that they have – that thrill which, although subtle and understated, is yet so carefully calculated.

I also intend to write down my own notes about both the progress of my translation and what I learn about Pizarnik’s life and how her poems have been interpreted at different times. These notes will form the backbone of an article that will introduce prospective readers to the idiosyncrasies of Pizarnik’s poetry and perhaps also her world more generally.


Emmi Ketonen (MSc) is a Spanish-to-Finnish literary translator, freelance journalist and copy editor who studied comparative literature, Spanish language and translation at the University of Turku and participated in a student exchange programme at the University of Santa Fe in Argentina.

Her translations into Finnish include, among others, the Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro’s collection Altazor (Kustannusliike Parkko, 2020) and the Mexican author Fernanda Melchor’s novel Hurricane Season (Aula & Co, 2021).

Ketonen has previously worked as the editor-in-chief of the literary magazine Lumooja, and she currently chairs Kapustarinta ry, which is the writers’ collective that publishes the magazine.