Literature as a European mother tongue: In our series “One is a CROWD”, we introduce you to authors from all over Europe who will be involved in the CROWD omnibus reading tour, taking place from May to July 2016, featuring 100 authors who will be travelling through 15 European countries. We asked them questions about text production, reception and mediation. In case you were wondering what a literary activist from Tampere looks like, meet Alexandra Salmela!
Have you ever participated in collaborative author/reader projects? And if so, what do you find interesting about it?
Accidentally, as a prosaist, I got into a political-poetry-performing group rajapyykkärit together with J.K. Ihalainen, Maria Syvälä and other poets based in Tampere. I think I replaced Hassan Blassim, who was too busy to do the thing more than once. There’s far more opportunities to perform live poetry than prose, which is a pity, because I like to read. It’s inspiring, it’s social, it’s fun. It opens up your own texts from a completely different point of view to yourself as well.
I enjoy the rhythm of the spoken word, the dialogue and interaction between different authors’ texts. I like it raw, unrestrained and spontaneous, but, on the other hand, after some rehearsing it’s easier to play with the small text parts, loop words and sentences. I used to do that for fun ages ago, now we’re starting to work on something similar with another prosaist colleague, Marisha Rasi-koskinen.
Some years ago I took part in Máč, the month of author’s reading, which is a fantastic projects coordinated by Větrné mlýny, a publishing house from Brno. A tandem of authors hit the road from Brno and traveled a route from the Czech Republic via Slovakia and Poland, and nowadays Ukraine, too, back to the Czech Republic, moving on day by day. next day, another tandem starts the same route. The next day another one, and another one, and that goes on for a month. It’s fabulous if you’re staying at one spot, but as a touring author you don’t get much opportunity to enjoy it.
What is your favorite literary spot in …? (literary venue, bar, meeting area, city, etc.) Please do give us a link to the website of the spot / area.
Tulenkantajat, a tiny shabby book-shop downstairs, in the groundfloor of the house I live in. It’s my favourite neighbor, a meeting-point for the local authors and a cultural oasis of the city hosting several literary events a week. the owner has just changed, so I hope the genius loci won’t get wiped away with the reconstruction.
Which recent literary event fascinated you the most and why? (Please give us the link to the website of the event)
The first poetry night on immigration with rajapyykkärit at vastavirta club, Tampere. It was packed and all the people came to listen to the reading and discussion, even more – they interacted, which is fairly rare in Finland. Someone brought over a group of asylum seekers to speak of their reality. the energy was enormous, it felt like people cared of literature, culture and the world around us.
It was a gig, there’s no website but in was hosted at this venue : http://vastavirta.net/
Lahti was good too, less political, more literary.
How do you feel about readers’ comments and feedback to your texts? Does it affect / alter your subsequent writing?
I treat my texts as a dictator. I spend too much time with them. I don’t like to come out with them before they’re ready unless they’re not supposed to get ready ever, remaining an act of spontaneity. Readers’ feedback would be nice to get, they often come up with interpretations and reveal meanings I wasn’t deliberately aware of when writing, but I think it wouldn’t change much of what and how I will do in the future. On the other hand, it’s possible all the feedback, all the critique, disgust and praise just sink into my subconsciousness and manipulate me secretly.
Anything else that is of interest / importance to you?
And possibilities of a form of a literary work.
Alexandra Salmela is a Finnish-Slovak writer who writes both in Finnish and Slovak. She is also a translator and a theatre practitioner. She is an author of adult and children’s fiction. Currently she is working on her first Finnish language drama, an absurd-like ecocatastrophical allegory. Her novel 27 or death makes an artist (Teos 2010) won the Helsingin Sanomat Debut of the Year. She published her latest work, the experimental novel Antisankari (Antihero) in autumn, 2015.
She is interested in environmental topics, the (im)possibility of implementing high ideals into everyday practice and the concomitant processes of bending and the tainting of one’s personality. She likes trees. In her prose, she examines the possibilities of form as literary means. She is interested in the performative potential of read prose, and the rhythmical dialogue between different pieces of work. She is a member of Tampere-based collective ETHT (Performative arts rehearsal and research group).
Photo by Sasa Salmela