Rosanna Fellman

- Sweden -

Rosanna Fellman, born 1995 in Finland, is a Swedish-speaking Finnish stage poet and activist. She got her breakthrough in 2018 when receiving first prize in the Arvid Mörne writing competition. Her poetry is influenced by contemporary public debate, slam poetry and multilangualism. Fellman's first poetry book Strömsöborna(2019, Förlaget M) received the Finnish culture prize Vimma in 2019. Her second poetry book Republikens president - Tasavallan presidentti (Förlaget M, 2022) is a multilingual satire about political power.

Rosanna Fellman (born 1995) grew up in Jakobstad, Ostrobothnia (Western Finland). At seventeen, she began participating in open mike-events in her hometown, something which she picked up again in Åbo, where she studied literature at Åbo Akademi University. In 2018, Fellman won the Arvid Mörne prize, a writing contest for young writers under thirty, with “Störd” (Disturbed), a cycle of poems about how people with autism are treated.


The year after, Fellman published her first poetry collection Strömsöborna (The Strömsö People). For this, she was awarded the Vimma-prize and was nominated for the “Tanssiva karhu”-prize, awarded annually for the best Finnish poetry collection.


Strömsöborna is a tour de force of persona poetry, with poems written from the perspective of different individuals who are, or feel, socially rejected or inept. Many of the poems were previously performed on stage and retain traces of their oral origins to great benefit. Fellman writes a lively, direct, and humorous poetry, which captures the way people speak, using slang or dialect, intermixing Swedish with snippets of Finnish or English. This is often contrasted with the official, impersonal way society speaks back, creating absurd effects.


The title of the book refers to “Strömsö”, a lifestyle tv show which has become something of a cliché for Finland-Swedish middle-class savoir-faire, where everything (arts and crafts, cooking and gardening) turns out well. As an ironical contrast, Fellman exposes the darker aspects of everyday Finland, where social outsiders are caught in the cogs of capitalism, bureaucracy, and prejudice.


The voices of Strömsöborna are those of socially and regionally rejected individuals, people with health issues, non-binarism, trauma, perversion, alcoholism, autism. A girl feels ugly, fat and lonely. She dreams of receiving “an acceptance letter/ to being someone else”. When she is finally invited to a party, she is struck by the fact that everybody is just posing and taking pictures to “document” themselves “to the real world”.


Social rejects have something in common, Rosanna Fellman appears to say. And this may be something of an advantage. If the “real world” somehow escapes the people who pose, normalcy escapes the normal, as she indicates in “Pillerboxfolket” (The Pill Box People). At least normal people can’t tell “what’s actually so great about” being normal, something which the Pill Box People know very well, even too well.


An autist, just like an artist, observes others minutely, sometimes to the degree that what is “normal” appears abnormal. This is the theme of “Checklista för autister” (Check List for Autists, part of the poem cycle “Störd”, with which Rosanna Fellman won the Arvid Mörne prize), where friends walking down the street swiping on Tinder seem more absurd, at least to the reader, than the autistic ‘I’ of the poem rattling off the multiplication table in the bathroom.


Fellman’s second book, Republikens president/ Tasavallan presidentti, is an extended role poem, of sorts, of a fictional female president of Finland, a workaholic unmarried middle-aged Finland-Swede who is sponsored by a potato chip company.


The book is a sort of horrific parody of what politics could become, and partly has become, when trivialities replace important issues. The one project that the president feels most passionately about is to move a statue of Mannerheim’s horse from Gullranda, the presidential summer residence, to Mejlans, for people to be able to see it.


The presidential institution is defamiliarized, many of the presidential tasks appear as silly as some of the medieval rituals of royalty. An example is the Presidential Independence Day reception, the so called “Castle Ball”, where the president shakes “thousands of hands” at the Presidential Palace.



I have hung up a mirror at face level

above the hand when I practice

my facial expression


(”En spegel har jag skruvat upp i ansiktshöjd

ovanför handen då jag övar

på mitt ansiktsuttryck”)



This brings to mind the autist in “Checklista för autister”, practicing social interaction at home. What the president and the autist have in common is that they are trying to act naturally in circumstances that are unnatural, if seen from a certain perspective.


The dialectic between normal and abnormal is taken further in this dystopian (or is it utopian?), anarchistic book, which somehow recalls Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi. It is, moreover, a multilingual book, a reflection of the actual soundscape of life in Finland. It is also visually thought out, the layout of the page indicating who’s talking, their ideology, etc.


Fellman’s poetry is often described as satire, but perhaps it would be even more apt to speak of it as humor. At least if you think of satire as directed at a specific goal, whereas humor explodes the reader’s entire world, as the Swedish author Magnus Hedlund has suggested. The black humor of Republikens President / Tasavallan Presidentti doesn’t inspire laughter but attempts at a kind of liberation. That’s why it could appropriately called utopian, even though it paints a bleak picture of the society we live in.


However dystopian, Fellman’s poetry is full of compassion, energy, and imagination.