One is a CROWD – Marjo Niemi

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 Finland looks like, meet Marjo Niemi!

Have you ever participated in collaborative author/reader projects? And if so, what do you find interesting about it?

I often choose to collaborate with other artists. I don’t say it is easy. But easy doesn’t mean progress.

I often find something important at the borders of literature. I’m testing my language in performances and with music. I prefer writing alone, but between versions I gladly discuss them with others.

I studied dramaturgy in Theatre Academy, and there I wrote plays/performances also with others.

From the year 2010 on I have been a member of Mahdollisen Kirjallisuuden Seura (The Society for Expanding Literary Possibilities). MKS is a group of literary scholars and novelists, who are mapping new possibilities for prose by writing, discussing, performing and publishing both fiction and non-fiction. The next publication will be a collective procedural novel in 2016. I’m one of the fourteen writers in the project and the publication will be 15 books in 7.4.2016. It will be the longest Finnish novel ever written, 4192 pages. The process has been long and weird – the problems of how to take on and bear other writers’ language in a novel that is yours too, as much as others’. It has been painful and beautiful. My reason to take part in the project was curiousity and need to resist individualistic culture and cult of personality in literature.

What is your favorite literary spot in …? 

Prose Club Prosak, Nuoren Voiman Liitto, Poetry Moon, Kafe Moskova in Helsinki, all libraries.

Which recent literary event fascinated you the most and why?

Finnish literature performance group called “black mödernism” organized and curated ”The Universum Tour” at the Theatre Universum in Helsinki 28.5.-11.6.2015. It was a four-evening series of literary performances. It was a stage for groups and authors, who combine literature and performance, a growing trend in Finland and especially in Helsinki. It was more than fascinating to see how many kinds of mixes there are. To see and make this kind of marginal art makes me instantly happy, because literature, performance and music are together much more than drama.

How do you feel about readers’ comments and feedback to your texts? Does it affect / alter your subsequent writing?

At the Theatre Academy I learned to receive feedback and use it in the way that helps my text. Sometimes it means that I ignore it. Sometimes it helps me to strenghten my own view, sometimes it helps, sometimes it confuses things. It is always interesting how readers, critics or collegues get my intentions. In theatre, performances, or in the gigs the feedback is always present. When I write at my office, I discuss with my inner public, with all of my/our history, with other writers alive or gone, with the trees in front of the window, with the world. But there is just me really. The isolation is important, but I need to discuss with editors, friends, readers and mentors. Because literature is expression and naturally I want to go further in my language and to be understood. I can’t know it if I don’t hear it.

John Cage has written: ”Do not try to create and analyze at the same time. They are different processes.” That’s what I try to remember.

Anything else that is of interest / importance to you

I think a lot and teach some dramaturgy of sound and language at the Theatre Academy.

It is hard to discuss sound verbally, as hard as it is to write well. Maybe that’s why I love it. My best friend in these thoughts is:

Here is what we did with my prose band when we had an extraordinary possibility to work with the American poet Ron Silliman in one gig.

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