Poet Veera Antsalo at Poetry Periscope at the British Library
European Literature Festival 2016 is kick-starting with its opening project Poetry Periscope 3 May at the British Library hosted by the leading UK poet Ian McMillan. It is an EUNIC project organised by the Czech Centre in collaboration with the Czech organisation Piana na ulici (Pianos on the Street), British Library and The Poetry Society. Poetry Periscope is a new public sound installation with poems representing 30 European cultures, both in their original language and in an English translation. Finland will be represented by poet Veera Antsalo. We had a chance to interview Antsalo to discuss creativity, her work and the future of poetry.
Veera Antsalo (b. 1975) lives in Helsinki and has published two books of poetry, both from publishing house Teos. Her first book, a collection of prose poetry Sähkökatkoksen aikaan (During a Blackout) came out in 2012 and was widely praised by critics. Her second book, equally well received Pölyn historia (The History of Dust) came out in 2015. The poem ”Ajattelin Gelsominaa” (I thought about Gelsomina) is from Sähkökatkoksen aikaan and translated into English by Kasper Salonen.
Out of all of your poems, why did you choose 'I Thought About Gelsomina' for Poetry Periscope?
It’s my debut work, which is suitable for reading out loud because of its rhythmic design and harmony. I like the melancholic feeling of it. I thought that it suits also because it deals with origin, roots and the journey towards something. The poem mixes very slow processes with quick changes.
When you’re at your most creative?
If I wake up at 3-4 am I may have some good ideas and the text is practically spinning in my head. I feel that I could write forever. If I turn on the light and grab a notebook and a pen the creativity seems to vanish straight away. That’s why I’ve learned to memorise the text in this situations. If I do get up to write these things down, I write from what I’ve memorised and then edit it later on paper or on computer.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently doing a project combining poetry and sound art with an electro-acoustic musician. We are building one sound-installation and we are also preparing a few performances, but we are just in the beginning. We are also working on two scripts, which I’m not yet sure if they are going to be novels or poems, or maybe novel poems, or something in between?
How do you see the connection between technology and poetry (new channels to publish poetry)?
New technology platforms will probably change the idea of what poetry can be, and for who it should be.
What does the future of poetry look like in Finland and the UK?
I have not followed British poetry, so I really don’t know, but I just heard about Warsan Shire, whose poetry can be heard at Beyonce’s new album. He must be a upcoming name. I always expect something revolutionary from poetry. I believe, that poetry is at it’s strongest when different and new people or point-of-views are being heard. I don’t like to look into the future, instead I focus on the present.
I THOUGHT ABOUT GELSOMINA
For a day and an age I was the Pleistocene epoch, a megafauna. I spun a skull and a sense of
direction and I wandered here along forking roots. And although some of my limbs were misplaced
on the way, I changed gradually from reptile to jawbone, from jawbone to footwear. I was a pair of
feet, originally, I stamped myself into the mold of a step, I sought the bottom and pressed my ball
into the shoetree. I grew a teeny tiny ypsilon-shaped bone in my throat. I clicked it on. I collected
asphalt under my nails, tied my shoelaces. I spread my net out in the air, entered metamorphosis,
Wikipedia, and a snare. And by blinking my eyes the world was changed. At the cash register of a
Prisma the codes sang to me in their own passing dialect. Inside my palms the smell of sweat shops,
lashes in the eye, I was so tired of doing whatever I wanted. I was so tired that I thought about
From Sähkökatkoksen aikaan (During a Blackout) Teos 2012, translated by Kasper Salonen.
Poetry Periscope will be installed at the British Library Piazza from 27 April to 19 May. The official launch event will take place on Tuesday 3 May 6.30-7.30pm.
More information about the European Literary Festival 2016 here