Sami poet Inger-Mari Aikio is coming to London for the first ever Nordic Poetry Festival. She will read poems that she has written specifically to the occasion.
Where do you get your inspiration to the poems?
“The inspiration comes from everything that I see and think. Personal experiences and the ones of my friends also often work as an inspiration. Usually I can’t wait for the inspiration so I just start working on poems. I decide the subject, start researching it and find inspiration while working on it. At Nordic Poetry Festival I’m working and performing with three British poets. We’re writing the poems specifically for the occasion.”
Do you usually write your poems in Sami? What does it mean for you to write in Sami?
“I usually write in Sami. If there is a subject that focuses on Finnishness and Finns, I write in Finnish. I may translate the poems to Sami later on if I find them worth it. I’m writing in English for Nordic Poetry Festival which is very challenging because my skills in English are not good enough for poetry.
Sami is the language of my heart and emotions and it is the closest language to me. Of course it is also easiest for me to write in Sami and I also think that my poems are best in Sami.”
Do you have some projects that you’re working on right now?
“At the moment I’m working on a book that discusses the relationship between Sami people and Finns. The relationship is very problematic nowadays. The poems focus mostly on the state’s attitude towards us Sami people.”
What are your expectations for the Nordic Poetry Festival?
“I’ve been to many festivals where I’ve read poems that I’ve written beforehand. The poems for Nordic Poetry Festival were written specifically for the festival. Language has made the collaboration really challenging. I feel like my English poems are made by first-graders because my vocabulary is so basic. It’s frustrating because I want to write poems that are on the same level with the ones I write in Sami. Now I have to accept that my poems are on a lower level. At the festival I will read the poems in Sami and my partners read them in English. It’s better that native speakers recite the poems.
First I thought that I’m collaborating with only one poet. If I had known that there were three poets, I would have gotten scared and thought that I couldn’t do it. Still, it’s good that I decided to participate. Every festival is a chance for networking and receiving new invitations and collaborations. I’m sure that’s the case with Nordic Poetry Festival as well.”
What kinds of reactions are you expecting from the audience?
“I’ve never been to Britain before so I can’t really say how the audience will react to the poems. I’ve mostly performed in Latin America where the audience is amazing. In Columbia I felt like a rockstar. It’s unbelievable when the audience shouts more, more, more. You don’t see that in Europe. I’m still really excited about this festival which will be a new kind of experience for me.”
The Nordic Poetry Festival, https://www.europeanpoetryfestival.com/nordic, free admission
11 October, Opening of the NPF Exhibition opens at Burley Fisher Books, London
12 October, The Nordic Camarade at Rich Mix, London
14 October, Nordic Norwich Camarade at the National Centre for Writing
15 October, Nordic York Camarade at the JORVIK Viking Centre
17 October, Nordic Poetry at Writers’ Centre Kingston
Text: Kaisa Paavola Photo: Inger-Mari Aikio