Sunday, September 30, 2018

Ruska in Finland; Wonderful days at KulttuuriKauppila (still hard to spell and say) in Ii, and Anthropology in Vienna

Ruska in Northern Finland means the beauty of autumn light, yellow leaves, temps in the 30s and 40s, the possibility of clouds, rain and snow. It's getting dark earlier. My last week here in Ii included writing, long walks and bike rides, dinner with Antti and his family (he made moose steak with grilled local mushrooms in cream sauce).  I was rowed home from a party by a father and son about whom I wrote a new poem (here's a small bit of draft).

"The father rows, oars up and over shell. Sturdy certainty of a river's current, home from Illinsaari. The 20-something son's tangled hair in his face. He rolls his own cigarettes and smells of them."

 I took a big car ferry to the island of
Hailuoto, in the Gulf of Bothnia, with a population of about 1000. I was generously welcomed by Sanna and her husband Aki who organize a popular music festival on the island in summer, BattreFolk and who are planning to make their artist and writers' residency an international one. I stayed in this lovely room one night and met Finnish poet Silja
Jarventausta We had a l smoke sauna in the evening and talked poetry. I will come back!

 I was invited to give a talk on American Literature by Heini Perttula of KulttuuriKappila and librarian Minna Halonen at the local public library.  I enjoyed sharing my thoughts on the importance of slave narratives, the poetry of Whitman and Dickinson, the Thoreau of "Civil Disobedience" and the environmental ethos of Walden which Finns can relate to. I also took questions on and spoke of writers like Kate Chopin, Junot Diaz and Toni Morrison, Elizabeth Strout. The audience was interested in the #metoo  movement. Some of the books were available in English and some in Finnish; some local people attended, and graduate students at nearby University of Oulu. Just like in the U.S., Finns are reading less literature and spending more time on line.  In these photos to the left (I need a haircut!) I am being interviewed by Anni-Sofia Kauppila for an article in a cultural magazine of Northern Finland that will come out in December. Thanks to Anni-Sofia and Jan Aqvist for this piece on how my writing and research are informed by Finland and the work of Sami artists.

  I went to Vienna to the Vienna Anthropology Days conference  where I presented my talk on Sami response to mining and extraction on a three-session panel on art and violence. The papers were fascinating; I did get emotional over one that was about kids in Austria who were given chocolate guns made by an artist; the kids were filmed by her collaborator as they attacked each other by ambush and took bites out of the guns too. For Americans, I said to the filmmaker and audience, our children are being shot with real guns and it's not something to easily parody.  I don't know if he understood.

Klimt!  Vienna has amazing grandeur in its former palaces and residences, many of which are now museums, but I only went to one. The Hapsburg dynasty ruled in southern Europe for so many years and was ostentatious about showing off its wealth and power. I took a walking tour in the short time I had. Guides in Austria must study for two-years to learn the history and take a test, so they are great.

This past week, my flash fiction piece "Grade Book" was published by Cheap Pop Lit.

Thanks to the editors for publishing it. Give me your thoughts! Hope you are all well and enjoying autumn. I am on my way to Lapland--taking a road trip with friend Marjorie from NYC.

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