- Finland -
Maria Matinmikko is a Finnish poet and prose author. She has published four books: Valkoinen ("White", 2012), Musta("Black", 2013), Värit ("Color", 2017) ja Kolkka ("Niche", 2019). Her first three collections together compose a three-part literary work. The fourth is a fragmentary poetry novel. Matinmikko's literature moves on the edges of genre, combining lyrical, philosophical, and societal thinking in various ways. Her most recent work Kolkka was longlisted for the esteemed Runeberg Prize; Valkoinen won national broadcaster Yle's Dancing Bear Poetry Prize and was in the running for the Helsingin Sanomat Literature Prize for debut books; Värit received the Kalevi Jäntti literary prize, awarded by the Nihil Interit collective, and was chosen as book of the year on the online Finnish library portal Kirjasampo.
In addition to her personal oeuvre, Matinmikko was one of the fourteen authors from the writers' group Mahdollisen kirjallisuuden seura ("Association of possible literature") who composed a collaborative poetry novel together in 2016, called Ihmiskokeita ("Human experiments"). The first instalment of a digital, collaborative, and procedural work called Lähes tunnistamaton mahdollisuus menettää ("An almost unrecognizable opportunity for loss") was released in 2018.
Matinmikko's essays, poems, prose excerpts, columns, and manifestos have been published through various media, including poetry magazine Tuli & Savu, cultural magazine Nuori Voima, philosophical magazine niin & näin, in an anthology commissioned by the Finnish Innovation Fund (Sitra), and on national broadcaster Yle's website. She has also conducted writing workshops and created performances; she is on the board of the dance festival called Liikkeellä marraskuussa.
Maria Matinmikko graduated as a Master of the Arts from the University of Helsinki, with a major in aesthetics. She has studied writing in the Orivesi College of Arts, Kallio upper secondary school, and liberal education center Oulu-opisto. Her hobbies include photography and dance. She is the mother of one child.
The writer who writes writing – the diverse works of Maria Matinmikko
A common conception of the human body is that our corporeal form is an internal experience, whereas the outside world is composed of other distinct things. In the writing of Maria Matinmikko these categories, like many others, mix or meld to generate new constellations.
In her poetry collection Värit ("Colors", 2017) Matinmikko transports the reader to "the shores of the lake of internal organs" (p. 24), while in her verse novel Kolkka ("Niche", 2019) "the air pressure, lighting, and menstrual cycle draw constellations as they merge" (p. 45). A person's corporeality defines and delimits their observation in very concrete ways, but then again the human body makes possible endless combinations and metamorphoses; it connects with its environment in ever more creative forms.
The poet herself has said in an interview that she has defined the genre of her work in a straightforward but also highly permissive way: she is "a writer who writes writing" (qtd. Parnasso, 2017). Matinmikko's four-book oeuvre has become increasingly difficult to categorize. These works may be called hybrid literature, which brings poetic expression into prose and makes use of a broad range of methods, from visual art compositions to personal journalling, from essays to aphorisms.
Matinmikko's writing often organizes into fragments whose interrelationships are marked by tension. In Värit, these may be prose paragraphs many pages long, but occasionally only a single phrase sticks out of the otherwise blank page. A fragment often seems to require space around it, emptiness and paper-whiteness, in the midst of which its strange and polysemic glow is amplified.
Matinmikko's first three books compose a so-called "color trilogy", which are all easily recognizable as being written by the same author, even though their subjects and topics are different. Matinmikko entered the Finnish literary world as a fully formed and idiosyncratic creator, but in all her publications she has also taken her artistry in new directions.
Valkoinen ("White", 2012) appears to highlight the sense of space, emptiness, and silence. It is full of mist and fog, in whose shapelessness the verbal meanings are allowed the peace to develop. The follow-up, Musta("Black", 2013), is elemental and earthy, filled with blooming and lyrical prose as if rising out of the soil, and creates a more tangible reading experience than its predecessor.
The mentioned third installation, Värit, flies up into the sky as courageous, flamboyant rainbow poetry, which also comes to form the basis for her later verse novel. It is a rare thing to encounter authors who are able to create such utterly separate and different worlds within works through their own powerful style. Comparisons that spring to mind include masters of their craft such as Marguerite Duras or Mirkka Rekola.
Certainly Matinmikko's writing also includes a declarative, dryly humorous tone and manner of cataloguing even the oddest of phenomena, as if to assert that everything going on in the books were perfectly ordinary, at times simply mildly amusing. The author does not inform the reader on what they should be upset or excited by, and instead allows for an actively participatory reading process that generates spontaneous discoveries.
Matinmikko's books are journeys to places that are both within and without the bodily human experience. In Kolkka, the trip's destination is (in reference to Finnish-Swedish modernist Edith Södergran) "a land that does not exist".
Kolkka simultaneously delivers a feminist utopia and dystopia, where the shores of the non-existent land gives rise to lifestyles based on the blossoming of the spectrum of gender identities, whereas the landlocked interiors are plagued by a state of war and oppression. Yet nothing is labeled as outright good or bad; even the sorriest of niches opens up to the attentive observer as multi-faceted and changing, as a multi-layered entity.
Kolkka is, nonetheless, more directly political than her previous work in its entirety. The novel not only creates a nuanced and meaningful world, but also actively opposes all atempts to blunt the diversity in gender, conscious experience, and nature itself.
In the novel, soliders who call themselves "peacekeepers" form an archetype that is both terrifying and comedic: "These professionals of peace surprisingly revitalize a cult in their home country that was forgotten a thousand years ago. The cult holds that their leader will arise from the place where these two things converge: they will be able to express the simplest plan for the future and they will have a renowned sexual member."
The cult appears to remain faithful to the past, even though it is actually barely a gaunt mockery of all the possibilities of conscious experience obscured by history: "I think about the buried worldscapes and civilizations, who still live as layers in the earth and in our mental histories. – I think about completely different ways of being in a personal relationship, to record time, to communicate with animals."
Matinmikko has, in addition to her own works, sought to actively discover new or previously silenced ways of writing and reading. She also took part in a collective novel written by herself and thirteen other authors called Ihmiskokeita ("Human experiments"), and has released an online work together with Markku Eskelinen called Lähes tunnistamaton mahdollisuus menettää ("An almost unrecognizable opportunity for loss") (LINK: https://nokturno.fi/poem/lahes-tunnistamaton-mahdollisuus-menettaa/). The duration of the reading experience alters the contents of the writing, creating a unique interpretation every time.
Translated by Kasper Salonen
Kolkka / Kolkka
1. every interior is a leaking universe,
2. the world, a medieval tavern in a dwindling
My shoulder pads wrinkle in the rain and under
the straps of my bags. I drag billowing yellow with
me, gossamer. Why do I feel so festive? Like
arriving at an important but avoided occasion, full
of expectations, I don't know of what. I swat gnats,
their dance hatches. I've now arrived here in this land
that does not exist. I place the portable loudspeaker on
a small table, I dry and shape my hair. A zigzag swings
in the wind. Feels salty on the edge of sweet.
The balcony opens onto a courtyard. Standing in a
certain spot, you can see a sliver of sea like a mucous
membrane. The arrow-straight plunge of the rooftops
creates crossword puzzles, sideslipped notes, a Mikado,
and billiard cues.
Is that a hillock, a mountain, a hillside, a ridge, or a
precipice? It is drawn against the sky, against the sea
and the imperceptible. How does it array itself for each
observer? How do the mantles of morning and twilight?
And what about the articulation of black birds: an adaptation
of a consonant, or the other way around? How do the shadows
and skeletons of pale thin dogs mix with the beach sand, the
heat with the headache, and thirst with the desire to kiss?
The steppe, the plain, and the desert refer to a
flat horizon and wild horses but also to drought.
The mountains mean high-up vistas but obstacles,
the seashore shows the harbor and a hint of other
continents but also washed up trash piles and dead fish.
A concept squeezed to become fate loses its meanings.
Thoughts and feelings speed along as mini telegrams
through the silver screen of consciousness.
Red threads are floating in the air, algorithms, vertical
load-bearing pillars, horizontal bridge head cues, a few
rainbows and earplugs, moonlight.
I have just unpacked my luggage in my room. The mosquito
net makes my bed look like a large pink womb hanging from
the ceiling. I do not check the mattress, because I already
paid for the lodging. Through the mirror I can see into
the living room of the house opposite. The walls of the
building are mint green and cracked. The coarse
decorative designed are rotting like teeth in Coke.
The writing desk in my room is waiting for someone
to bend over it.
The wind flies into the stem, punctures the puncture,
becomes glued to a gallop, hears. A transparency glides
across the region, uncalcified white lava.
A child in the yard laughs an amazing terrifying laugh:
it doesn't seem to end at all, it always starts again as if
someone were lunging to tickle them, hitting the right spot,
continuing a little too long so that the tickling becomes pain
and as if after a nonexistent pause the tickling would commence.
The child does not get tired. The tickler does not get tired.
The same track begins over and over again, the laughter
expands in my ears to torture. Is that what it is? The laughter
is coming from the same direction as some cooking smells.
Someone is preparing food in an open tent. The rubbish is
tossed over the fence into a burning container.
Every customer seems to have brought their own radio,
playing music from each of their countries.
Vestments of impressions. Corridors, lobbies, waiting rooms.
To sleep quietly and alert. To strain in a dream. The need
to get lost.
An anchor tattoo on the tongue.
When we lose the ability to embellish, another phase begins.
My friend's martial art is called Monkey Corpse. Instead of
trying to squirm away, to create distance in any way possible,
the technique is to attach oneself to the attacker, to find a
closeness that paralyzes them. Makes them feel terror.
I think I see someone in the gloom, but it's only the
reflection of the banana in my hand in the window glass.
Concealment: a lighthouse evaporates in blue mist /
the clack of shoes after an electronic music show.
A room undressed even of undressing. But imagine
a pregnant white horse.
The universe in motion, garbage cans. History does
What is left if we remove the game and the competition?
The smell of nighttime eucalyptus is wafting here. It drives
me to read a book. What does the thought that all wars
would have been fought by women feel like? I'd like to
make a movie about it.
I want you to imagine that movie.
What is bison milk like?
The corner of an eye shines like the hood of a clitoris.
What story told to oneself keeps one's identity intact?
I hate to see a city for the first time, because then I see
everything for the first time. Internal speech is forced
to my lips, I try to control it. The waves strike back into
the sea as fog. Conglomerations, centuries-old
mentalities glaze the streets. How many realities are
you inhabiting? Without knowing? I mean survival
methods. Someone is just walking into the hostel
lobby with a tube of CD ROMs in their hand. Time
is folded into items and items into people. But a person
does not freeze to be frayed, rather they are transformed
into something else. A constant stream flows through the
body, internality and externality as overlapping tides.
The darkness of the mountain range sleeps in
unsurrendered blood, on its back.
A polar bear's fluff eats the pose, warmed ice floes
squeeze out information.
3. do not imagine that ambiguity is any less important
From what direction should the vista be described?
Storm Over a Landscape: maw and womb. From where
can I orient myself away from it, the landscape in my
coattails, as a particle? From where do I enter the
landscape, the nature of the angle of entry?
Some blinding shimmer. The flash of fish scales
in the morning haze: the wake of a halo, the smoothing
of a ripple, on the edge of a loop.
Some enchanting mist. It spreads into the gaps between
ruins and sheets like landed clouds. Two thirds are out of
sight. Foam, slats hidden in fog. Still traversible: the mist
is sifted through teeth and joints, the lighthouse light
somewhere. Bird voices within hearing distance, perhaps
imagined, asleep in flight. The remains of the cavalry brushed
to the side of the road, perhaps imagined, dead of exhaustion.
Some wisp of hair flickers, the smell of rotted corpses. Some
rhythm deep near the ground, pasts grooved into the eyes of trees.
The sharpened matte of light is shredding the mist sticky.
The gums of the swollen clouds crumble into drizzle.
Buffalores. Rodbats. The entrance grease of the walls
Fog appears on the enormous stage. Pastel-colored
unicorns gleam against the dark porous backdrop.
Waterfalls surge in just when you think there are no
more. Patriarchalism is dead. Gender and sexual
minorities no longer need to fight for their rights.
Economic inequality has vanished. Racism has unraveled.
The hegemony of the novel is over. No more greenhouse
gases are let into the atmosphere. The stage feels
simultaneously soft and sharp, clear and ambiguous.
Multi-generational metal chains frame its edges.
Social categories spread out as fanlike imageries.
This is how this is and I can see it. I walk into mud,
it feels good, the black damp mass sucks up my instep.
One-euro buckets have been placed here and there,
no one is queueing for them. The fog turns pink, green,
purple. Two swans are visible in the field. I say:
"Scenic phases, musical order, the reasons for martial
arts: the intact is always broken, the unbroken cannot
be whole." The field view opens an expanse in my breastbone.
This expanse is for support. This expanse is for scrutiny.
This expansa is for processing. The field is autumnal and
frayed, already surrendered to the wind. The yellow pierces
the back of my head through my pupil, is painted inside.
There is no one without this, there is no one without earth.
Menstrual blood on the back of a white horse.
The world is not for anybody.
But the history of which people will all of this
Värit / Värit
A cake slice tastes like all the products in the glass cabinet.
In the back there hovers a wilderness of mirages and guarded
apartments. The lip skin grows sores, the glow of lily-of-the-valley
and narcissus is highlighted against the darkness. The Adam's
apple is swallowed whole. The museum café softens in the middle,
fruits from the edges. Hair opens its lures and hints. Untitled Studies
of the Human Perception and Body. Marker and acrylic on paper.
A man has taken a large roll of bubble wrap from the car and
is carrying it now on the street. The bubble wrap flaps open
in front of him, opens gradually into him, the gap/taint opens
He stomps on the bubbles, his childhood summers, bubbles.
"It took a long time to blunt the blade of my youth," he thinks,
doesn't notice himself thinking. Under thinking there is another
layer glimmer. A woman is turning around a map in the street,
turning streets. Turning endlessly, helplessly, reads, makes
notes, dizzies herself. The hotel receives her gently. Opens a
corner, turns. The lobby's well-tended wall-to-wall carpet softens
and an unknown person's gentleness caresses. In dusk the lead
of the head emerges. How lightly it is drawn: the pen's brittled
carcass, the autumn of paper, the internal purple and the rampart
Is there anything more beautiful than autumn that is revealed
from under snow, I don't want to move it from leaning.
That which has leaped up to rust
creates stems, ducks among them
births itself on the shore among the stalks and mallards. The overtures
of hate and joy pierce the characteristic scent of the tomb, mildew.
A few conspiracy theories and rock types overlapping, the light
raises a soft spot. I turn inward, outward, I turn doubly in my skin:
to bring light to the falling
underbrush, impressions, in the swamp of encryptions
the shroud of the brain and the silence of the continent separate
as fibers toward the growth of hair
Separate the continent into the grain of hair.
These circumstances condense the fog and ambiguity into
clumps at eye level. It is difficult to move or touch anything.
It congeals, sucks its skin inward as if everything around it
were dirty, cold, and unjust. I can't say I'm not afraid. Those
who say they fear nothing do not know themselves. Perhaps
they don't fear the same things that most others do, or their
fear is disguised as as meticulousness or the routines that
are required to maintain strength; their mouth turns around
inside their head and starts to eat the head. I've trimmed off
everything irrelevant. Defining relevance is a matter of taste.
An old wooden table balances. The graininess and porous-
ness place any place and object in relation with itself. It's
like a mountain in the background of a landscape. The
wooden table and an iron Chinese teapot, a small flat
cup for my keys, and a bowl of fruit with its colorfully
festooned patterns form the center. Sounds easy! It even
sounds abundant, vain. It isn't easy. It's about where we
direct our attention. A reasonable resistance sharpens and
braces us surprisingly. High resistance either drives us off
the rails or to perform heroic acts. I can't carry very heavy
objects right now, my hands are exhausted. The temperature
is quite suitable, slightly cool. I don't think that mix between
a sheep and a cow can be brought to pasture here. We would
have to figure out who would take care of it, and how. How
does a disease spread? A sheep's coat, the shape of a cow,
a shrunken behind. The smallest rivers have dried up, too.
"I don't think this is your voice. Your throat is strange. Some-
thing has happened: you're not using your own voice." The
milk bubbles in clods. The receded gums of my canine
teeth are aching. One would never let another person rub
their eyes like one does themselves. I listen to the silence,
where I hear the muted whirr of machinery.
The softness of the meadows gliding past caresses
my cheeks to fur.
The waltzes of broken peace spin around like
enormous escaped cones in the school auditorium.
Backwardness anticipates the density and quality of the line,
especially its location.
A deep bow at each round like moving cemeteries
of systematically subdued flesh.
The futility of speech certainly slashes the ears to bleed.
This is a metaphor for a monastery building.
But to lick the cliffs of the hours; time and miracles in general.
A wind instrument rips the horses into the wind, in the desert,
As a doppelganger, the back room of a back room.
The opposite side of a subject. A presentation's margins.
The heart of the night leaks the liquid of night. My knees are
armored in the wind, the curtains between the stage and the atmosphere.
On the other hand the world as a historical relic, wrapped.
I feel the rainy forenoon in my forehead, it crimps it to pigskin
sausages that press my eyelids. The Victorian Pen Name
Generator gave him the name Mortimer Morrell at 4:20 PM.
Mortimer adds up the most important things in his life. He
lights a small campfire for their honor and performs a ritual he
just made up: Mortimer kneels in front of his fire. He starts to
bend and soften. He probes the most important things and
considers himself lucky.
The tourists have wandered for weeks on end. They finally
arrive in the valley tired and sweaty. The valley is so broad and
hilly, riverful and cavernous, so even and beautiful, that the
tourists begin to immediately undress their extra layers. Right
then the curtains heavy with millennia fall in the valley. The evil
laugh of the curtains, the thick dust, the twisted rails, and the
ingrained plays all fall. They fall in the bodies of the tourists, in
the past, in the still unrisen morning.
The rhythm and sound of an eagle's wings, the curve of flight.
An uninvestigated pattern, an uninvestigated mind. The lions
have gathered in the valley. They lie about in the heat. The
columns of the ruined buildings glow in the light, monuments.
To shift from one landscape to another. To leave some mind.
To leave the corpse of the landscape. To change the combination
of the landscape-corpse and my own. In the background I feel
torn time, the the compositions and blows of the past, the news
broadcast of early morning dreams. The tourists' struggle goes on
in the firth and the gorge. Zeal and hurry. Their questions, thirsts,
and equipment. Their difficult journey to the valley, all previous
Mortimer writes a word he invented in his notebook: andor.
"And" and "or". The difference is almost undetectable when
pronounced. Andor refers to layers of thinking that have been
born in different temperatures and pressures. They slide, the
layers switch to others either gradually or suddenly. Mortimer
thinks he especially likes rust-red and slightly sticky clay that
looks hard but actually crumbles easily.
Musta / Musta
I turn into the muzzle of a silent monochrome revolution,
into the gums of a crazed horse. The forest gallops wildly
burned by autumn. Figures and shapes emerge from the
smoke, flashes, gaps, scenes, platforms of memory, recol-
lections of a story, the boulders of bystanders, the pain of
history, the weight of abstraction. My body bends to this
silence as if to its one and only task. The terrain is drawn
out when my retina, my breastbone, the back of my head,
and the paper meet. The intersection point is leaking. It
changes and expands in the clutch of new retinas. The
writing strives to get out of the flesh. The throb, the weight:
a compulsive dense cluster dashes from body to body.
Valkoinen / Valkoinen
Again and again, I return to that which does not begin or end.
It has stopped on the back of a camel. The camel is moving.
The form of the movement is simple, but difficult to describe.
I'll return to this as if to an unfinished meal, which turns into
a painting of an unfinished meal. I've already left and returned
the next time. I imagine my own expression.
Some shared area. An internal sector and quality. The yell
of a whale, the motion of a squirrel, the gaze of a lion. The
desire to turn into a tree. The desire to become as sincere
as an animal. The desire to meld, to melt into the landscape.
To become the landscape.
The moon belongs to the sea, the sea to the waves,
unopened boxes in the waves. Animals gather to the shores
at night. Their fur and feathers swish against each other. The
nocturnal quiet and beauty of the shores... I am a muted muscle,
stiff. Some wanderers can be seen as if they were reflections
or mirror images. The silence neither comes nor goes. It floats
and carries. Have I learned to speak, to write, and to walk: is
there any shelter, are there anymore enemies?