Impromptu Reading Series V: Reykjavík meets HelsinkiMay 23, 2012
Waaay back in the mid-’00s (!!), the Impromptu Reading Series hatched in Toronto when visiting writers suddenly appeared in our neighbourhood. The series was formed as suddenly as our guests’ arrival, and provided a way for the guests to share their work and to encounter texts of interest to local readers and writers. Put another way, with last-minute notice folks were invited to gather and share one text aloud. We chose a picnic table that first night, with a lovely and engaged group of people up for the adventure. Since that initial event, I’ve organized a few other Impromptus in Toronto and Ghent.
On Sunday, we held the first Impromptu in Reykjavík for visiting Finnish poets and Tuli & Savu editors Mikael Brygger and Henriikka Tavi. Mikael and Henriikka were in town to install In large, well-organized termite colonies, an exhibition at Listasafn Íslands in collaboration with IC-98 as part of the Reykjavík Arts Festival. The book they wrote features a set of instructions for installing the exhibition, and the book-as-object is gorgeous in design.
As for the event, eight of us gathered to share texts in different languages — Icelandic, English, Finnish, German — and to chat about the writing scenes in our cities. And WOW! It was such a warm, inspiring event. I get itchy using the word ‘inspiring’ since it can be such a cliché when referring to arts, but I was seriously inspired by the spirit, interest, and engagement of our intimate group and particularly by the brilliant conceptual work of Mikael and Henriikka; it’s changing my creative impulses currently.
At our gathering, Henriikka introduced us to her current work-in-progress. She calculated that in order for a poet to subsist on royalties, the writer would need to publish twelve books in one year. She has set out to do exactly that in 2012, and has been producing one book per month. She read to us from her January – April books, which you can access in their entirety online here. February’s book includes the poem “V Mikä Kosketti Minua Tänään,” a fairly frightening though fascinating list comprised of all ingredients used in cosmetics she uses on an average day. The poem starts on page 37 of this PDF. The project overall includes a blog that tracks the writing process, as well as a series of performances directed by Lija Fischer based on each book.
Mikael read work from an English-language Spam-poetry book of his called Emily, which is accessible online here. This differs from some of the more Flarf-oriented treatments of spam, since Mikael has harvested spam material to recast it in a diverse array of lyric, constraint, and conceptual forms. His reading included a poem called “Wolf” (page 13 in the PDF), which reminded me of both Christian Bök’s line “wolves evolve” in Eunoia as well as my own lipogrammatic poem “Owlution vs. Wolvolution” in Echolology. Mikael also read from Valikoima asteroideja (Selection of Asteroids), online here, which foregrounds curious mathematical and diagrammatic movements between languages. His reading of the title poem (check it out on page 62) was super neat!
We have a bit of advance notice for the next Impromptu (early June), when Linda Russo will visit Reykjavík. I’ll create this as an invite-only event, so if you’re interested in attending, let me know.