Women on the top of the world?: Rauni Magga Lukkari

It is extremely hard to find Sámi literature in English. This could be a deliberate strategy: Sámi author Ellen Marie Vars refused to allow translations of her work into majority languages, because she wanted people to read in Sámi. The indigenous languages of the people of northern Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia need preserving and using, but their voices need hearing, too. Here’s just one.

Rauni Magga Lukkari was “born on the Finnish side of the Tauna river” and now lives in Tromsø, Norway. I found her book Árbeeadni (Finnish: Äitejä, tyttäriä or Mothers, Daughters, English: The Time of the Lustful Mother) in a Sámi-Finnish edition from my local library. Her poems are short, but far from sweet. The book is rooted in its own landscape and language, but tells a story we all know, a journey across generations from birth to death and back again. It’s raw and cold and strong.

Rauni made it into English across the North Sea – she has one poem in English in the Scottish Poetry Library collection, from a reading of her poems in Sámi, Norwegian and Gaelic, translated into English by Kenneth Steven. Here it is again; it gives you a good taste of the pain of motherhood and harshness of life that these women know from inside their own bodies.

The Mother


I have called on my own mother

Grief tears me in pieces

cuts with iron into my back

rips up my breast

And there

where he was for nine months

right there a stone of pain has been laid

That I should give birth to


But my sorrows

cut the stone round

into me, deeper into me

Does one get accustomed

it is possible

to carry the stone of pain

like an unborn?

My sleep is torn

by my own screams

Day and night become one

Dreams become tangled with daily toil

That toil in everything that burdens

And I ask myself:

Was I the same person

before this?

I have called on my own mother

and her mother

and grandmother’s mother

I have begged for guidance

asked what I should do

when they forgot to say

what one does

when this happens

Am I here

do I still count?

I have paid calls

gone into shops

attracted people’s attention


many have stopped

told me I am still here!

You can see a few of Rauni’s and other Sámi poems in English in this article by Finnish PEN. But the best place to find out more about Sámi women’s writing is the Nordic Women’s Literature resource. This fantastic website has gathered writing from Finland to the Faroe Islands from the last millennium, and is searchable in English, Swedish and Danish.

Why the picture of the (Finnish) rowan? Because the name “Rauni” could mean rowan, or the mother goddess partner of Ukko, the Finnish thunder god – or Ukko himself.

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Posted in literature, poetry, translation
One comment on “Women on the top of the world?: Rauni Magga Lukkari
  1. […] Magga Lukkari tr. Kaija Anttonen, The Time of the Lustful Mother is a rare glimpse into the Sámi world in […]

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