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Miikka Laihinen, University of Turku

  • SOL, H104 12 Helgonabacken Lund, Skåne län, 223 62 Sweden (map)

The text, the Woods, the Issues

- Messy material relations in Mikael Brygger's poem "METSÄ"

  • Name: Miikka Laihinen
  • Academic credentials: Finnish Literature, PhD Student, University of Turku

Abstract: The forest as an epitome of the Nordic natural landscape has been traditionally considered as an area of transition from culture to nature, or vice versa. The edge of the forest can hence be conceived as a border- region inside the border-region of Scandinavia (as conceptualized in the call for papers); a space where culture dissipates and the mythical nature takes over.

According to an old saying, poetry as a dynamic and swiftly reacting form of art operates on the brink of societal change. Finnish poet Mikael Brygger's experimental poem ”METSÄ” (WOODS) questions the traditional, even mythically charged conceptions of forest as an untouched, utopian natural space. On the page of a book Brygger's poem forms an equilateral square standing on one of it's corners, consisting of randomly recurring letters 'p' and 'u' (and hence forming several wordily assemblages of 'puu', the Finnish for 'tree'). In the very center of the textual area, an equally equilateral white space – a hole – pierces the poem with it's pure white emptiness.

On one level, Brygger's poem actualizes on the page a characteristic Scandinavian space, a plot of land filled with trees of two different varieties. On the other hand, the equilateral form of the poem and the empty space in the middle conjure up images of commercial forests, planted solely on the purpose of filling the needs of a timber trade capitalist.

Seemingly simple in it's composition, Brygger's poem addresses – or, rather, shows, actualizes and connects togehter – several burning issues of the 21st century Nordic lifestyle and society. The prevailing, if challenged, division between nature and culture, the fragile balance between a natural state, forestry and exploitation and also the messy material relation between letters, words and things are all on agenda in Brygger's experimental poetic expression.

The question(s) to which I focus on in my presentation is: how is one supposed to read a text like that of Brygger's? And, more importantly, does Brygger's poem and the very event of reading it change something in the way I as a Nordic reader conceive my environment? In other words, how are the relations between a text, a reader and the world outside connected and laid out in this singular textual assemblage?

My reading of Brygger's poem takes a new materialist, or even so-called posthumanist stance. I approach poetry not as a language-based media transmitting (interpretated) meanings, but as a means of immanent, material operation of language on the page of a book.

Theme: Material Culture of the Nordic Space