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 Pauliina Haasjoki!
Have you ever participated in collaborative author/reader projects? And if so, what do you find interesting about it?
Yes, although most of my work has been individual. One of the early ones was a dialogue in prose poetry I wrote with another poet to be used as a basis for a play (Kolmosten talo, with Reetta Niemelä, 2005; set on stage by Teatteri Valaja, 2004). More recently I have participated in an installation by the artist duo IC-98 and eight Finnish poets: we put together an index, a list of words capturing our current form of life as we saw it, and then wrote based on those words. The texts were engraved on a table, which could in turn be used as a sort of primitive printing plate. The longest-term collaborative work I’ve engaged in was the translation of Gunnar Björling’s masterpiece Solgrönt (1933) from Swedish into Finnish; together with Finnish-Swedish poet Peter Mickwitz we formed a two-headed, bilingual, translating poet. What I find interesting is present in all of these, maybe: the authorship is located somewhere between the individual authors and doesn’t as such resemble any of them although it’s made up of them. And of course, being connected with others in what you are doing is revitalizing.
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.
Helsinki doesn’t have any venues that are solely for literature or poetry. The events circulate, although there are a few bars that we are now accustomed to seeing as venues for literary events or poetry open mics: Lavaklubi, in the basement of the National Theatre, Vastarannan Kiiski, Mascot. There are shared dreams of a permanent literature cafe/ shop/ venue/ meeting place, I hope they come true eventually.
A significant amount of literary events in Helsinki, for example the Poetry Moon festival, are thanks to Nuoren Voiman Liitto, a CROWD participant. For all your stage poetry and open mic needs you should go to Helsinki Poetry Connection.
How do you feel about readers’ comments and feedback to your texts? Does it affect / alter your subsequent writing?
Most of what goes on between a book and its readership is unknown to the author, sort of behind their back. And that’s as it should be. But the idea of exchange, of writing for other people and of their reading what you write, is very much at the center of the whole thing. I feel the need for some sort of concrete manifestation of this exchange. It might just be people I know telling me they have read what I wrote, or people I don’t know, or it might be in the form of reviews or criticism. It will only affect my writing in the sense that it might further my self-knowledge as a writer; mostly though, it’s not to be seen as guidance for the writer.
The general idea, though, that someone is reading, does affect it, because it directs my impulse to tell things, say things. What is there to say, what’s important, what do I have an urge to describe to this reader-person (or, maybe, these reader-people, because it’s also a feeling of belonging to something and talking to others, in plural)? I’ve become more and more centered on conveying thoughts in poetry. I think aloud and describe things. But I don’t mean by this to suggest that language is transparent or ”only” a means to conveying something. For following thought and landscape, language needs to be agile and hologram-like, ready to turn when the thought turns or something unexpected turns up. (And at the same time, the language used “happens” to the thinker and feeds back into the process of thinking and describing.)
Anything else that is of interest / importance to you?
From the endless wealth of important things, let me first mention Poesia, a co-operative publisher owned and run by 15 or so poets, writers, critics, poetry activists, translators, graphic designers, performers, printers, teachers. Many of us visit several of these roles in turn, some specialize in a particular thing. I am a proud member. Poesia started out as a poetry publisher but has expanded into essays, experimental prose, ecocritical thought and philosophy, literary criticism. The co-op owns a Heidelberg printing machine and has experimented with it’s own pop-up book store to bring poetry and readers together more tangibly.
What else: I have traveled quite a lot in the recent years and will probably continue for a bit still. I am trying to write my essay debut at the moment. For me different questions of modernity and of contemporary times seem important: all the changes that took place when fossil fuel was put to use or when mass communications and mass production became possible; when wars became global or transnational; when we were able to see the Earth from space or when ecological worry became mainstream. The idea of human rights and the victories there, insanely advancing technology, the growing awareness of the need to treat animals better; all the different strands of development and how they “bring” us “here”.
On the other hand, I enjoy natural landscapes, bodies of water, big skies, walking up hills, or being a stranger in a city; I enjoy dancing and singing, and pretty much every art form there is, when the time is right. I live by myself. I’m very thankful and happy for all the friends and family members I have, and every friendly encounter with strangers.