Mirjami Heikkinen is a versatile actor, drama teacher and reciter living in Helsinki. She has worked for the Finnish National Theatre and Teatteri Avoimet Ovet, for example. Heikkinen also actively recites poetry and has won the prestigious Veikko Sinisalo recitation competition. Recently, she has been interested in combining poetry and rap. At the Annikki Poetry Festival, Heikkinen will perform a magnificent rap version of Eino Leino’s classic poem ‘Hymyilevä Apollo’ (‘Smiling Apollo’).
Debutantes: Koistinen, Moberg & Vallioja
The Annikki Poetry Festival’s fifth Debutant[e]s meeting features three poets who have recently published their debut collections. They will work in a workshop led by poet Kristiina Wallin on 10 June, pondering the different sides of debuting as a poet, and perform on the poetry festival stage on 11 June.
Aino-Kaisa Koistinen, PhD in Contemporary Culture Studies, is a writer who has taken the three-year Viita-akatemia writing school. Koistinen’s debut poetry collection ‘uhanalaiset ja silmälläpidettävät’ (‘Endangered and Near Threatened’) was published in 2021 by Palladium Kirjat. Having been characterised as a lament for nature destroyed by humans, the work gives voice to extinct and other species.
Kirsi-Marja Moberg is a visual artist and performing poet. She currently also serves as chairperson of the spoken word collective Helsinki Poetry Connection. Moberg’s debut poetry collection ‘Kaksoissisäinen’ (‘Double Internal’) was published this spring by Basam Books. The debut deals with themes like loneliness, stopping before the unspoken rules of life and the vulnerability of the mind among the pressures of traumatic interpersonal relationships.
Sara Vallioja is a Helsinki-based poet and photographer. Her debut collection ‘Vatsahuuhtelun jälkeen olen puhdas’ (‘After Stomach Pumping I’m Clean’) was published last year by Aviador. The book has been praised for its apt, accurate and original language. Dealing with a person’s growing pains, the lines of the poems in the debut are occasionally interspersed with warmly ironic humour.
Elías Knörr (IS)
Elías Knörr (real name Elías Portela) is a poet, performer and cosmopolitan who moves between different languages. Born in Galicia Knörr moved to Iceland as a young adult and writes in Icelandic, Galician, Spanish and English alike. He has published poetry collections in all these languages and has received several literature awards for his work. Known as a great performer, Knörr surprises his audiences with fireworks of multilingual poetry and may also start singing at any time during his show if he feels like it.
Pertti Seppälä is a Helsinki-based poet, author, translator and specialist in the Chinese language and culture. The Beat Generation and hippie movement served as his signposts to Oriental cultures. In the 70s, Seppälä studied the Chinese language and literature for several years in Beijing and Shanghai. Having recently turned 70, Seppälä is known as a translator of classic Chinese poetry in particular. His latest collection of translations into Finnish is last year’s ‘Vaeltavat pilvet’ (‘Wandering Clouds’), which includes a selection of Chinese hermit poetry. Seppälä is also known as a creator of radio essays and radio documentaries.
Johanna Venho is an Espoo-based poet, author and literary art instructor. After her 1998 debut collection, she has published four poetry collections, several children’s book and five novels. Known as one of the key Finnish lyricists of her generation, Venho has received a number of awards for her work, including the Eino Leino and Katri Vala prizes, and her poetry has been translated into several languages. Venho’s two latest novels, works of biofiction, have received rave reviews and made her a household name. The first of the novels is ‘Ensimmäinen nainen’ (‘The First Lady’), a novel about Sylvi Kekkonen that was nominated for the Finlandia Prize, and the second one is ‘Syyskirja’ (‘The Autumn Book’), which delves into the life of Tove Jansson. Johanna Venho will be performing during the Annikki Poetry Festival’s Prose Breaks.
Pelle & Romantiks
Pelle & Romantiks is a band consisting of poet Pelle Romantika (real name Toni Lahtinen) and top musicians from Tampere. This spring, the band released its fourth literary album, ‘Konerunoja’ (‘Machine Poems’). Drawing from the heritage of author Olavi Paavolainen and literary group Tulenkantajat with a big heart and exhilarating humour, ‘Konerunoja’ was also published last year as a book, a joint effort by Toni Lahtinen and visual artist Lotta Nevanperä. Pelle & Romantiks has delighted Finnish poetry and music audiences by gigging regularly and revamping the tradition of the Finnish literary album. At the Annikki Poetry Festival, Pelle & Romantiks will feature Toni Lahtinen (recitation), Kielo Kärkkäinen (vocals), Matti Salo (guitar), Risto Ylihärsilä (keyboard), Sebastian Krühn (drums) and Ville Rauhala (double bass).
Sanni Purhonen is a poet, literary art teacher and literature critic living in Vantaa. Her debut poetry collection ‘Naara’ came out in 2010, and this spring she published her third collection, ‘Jos vain muuttuisin toiseksi’ (‘If Only I Turned into Another’). The book gives voice to famous historical women who belonged to various special groups. Among other topics, Purhonen’s work depicts her life with mobility challenges caused by cerebral palsy and vividly highlights people’s bewilderingly absurd approach to disability. Purhonen also works as the communications officer of the Threshold Association. Another theme that is important for her is everyone’s right to sexuality and love.
Heli Laaksonen & Harri Hertell
Living in Lappi, Rauma and writing in a Southwest Finnish dialect, author, poet, performer and lecturer Heli Laaksonen is known to almost all Finns thanks to her wordsmithery. Laaksonen will be joined on the stage by Harri Hertell, a poet with several collections under his belt and one of the pioneers of Finnish poetry slam. However, Hertell will not be reading his own poems this time but will be playing the role of classic Latvian poet Aleksandrs Čaks instead. Laaksonen & Hertell’s performance will consist of poems written by Čaks a hundred years ago and recently published in Laaksonen’s Finnish translation under the title ‘Poimit sydämeni kirjahyllystä’ (‘You Picked My Heart from the Bookshelf’) as well as Laaksonen’s poems written in response to them. The poems from a century ago and those from last year create a fascinating poetry dialogue that transcends time.
Jukka Viikilä is a versatile poet, author, dramaturge and playwright. He has had an exceptionally successful literary career, having won Finland’s most highly-esteemed literary award, the Finlandia Prize, for both his novels. The latter of these was in 2021 for his novel ‘Taivaallinen vastaanotto’ (‘The Heavenly Reception’). Viikilä started his literary career as a poet, publishing his debut collection ‘Runoja I’ (‘Poems I’) in 2008. After his debut, he has published two more collections of poetry. Viikilä’s literary style is characterised by beautiful and poetic language even in his prose. He has worked as a dramaturge for Ryhmäteatteri and the Finnish National Theatre, for instance. Viikilä is also known for the lyrics he has written for Kerkko Koskinen and Plutonium 74, among others. Jukka Viikilä will be performing during the Annikki Poetry Festival’s Prose Breaks.
Ursus Factory is a fast-rising power duo founded in 2013 by guitarist-vocalist Jussi Pelkonen and drummer Aleksi Ripatti. Hailed as one of Finland’s best live bands, Ursus Factory creates great sounds that could also make bigger bands proud. A large part in the band’s success is played by Pelkonen’s delightfully original lyrics, which question the traditional male role, among other things. It has been a while since rock music sung in Finnish has last sounded this fresh! Before his success with Ursus Factory, Pelkonen performed as a poet together with jazz group Mikko Sarvanne Hip Company. This combination also performed at the 2016 Annikki Poetry Festival. Watch a video of the performance!
Imogen Stirling (UK)
Imogen Stirling is a poet, theatre maker, musician, performer and literary art instructor living in Glasgow, Scotland. Having published two poetry collections, Stirling is known as one of Britain’s finest performing poets. Combining poetry, theatre and music, her performances have been praised ubiquitously. Stirling has performed extensively in her homeland and abroad, both at clubs and on large festival stages. Last year, Stirling featured in Britain’s first spoken-word TV series Life & Rhymes, hosted by Benjamin Zephaniah. Stirling’s latest poetry collection ‘Love The Sinner’ came out at the beginning of the year. Dealing with the seven deadly sins, the collection’s poems will also be heard at the Annikki Poetry Festival with music composed for the performance.
Marja-Leena Mikkola & Kielo Kärkkäinen
Marja-Leena Mikkola is an author, poet, lyricist and translator who started her career in the 1960s. Back then, she was known as one of Finland’s most prominent radical cultural figures. Having received countless important Finnish cultural prizes, Mikkola is particularly well-known for the lyrics she has written to numerous classic songs. These include Kaj Chydenius’s compositions ‘Laulu rakastamisen vaikeudesta’, ‘Laulu kuolleesta rakastetusta’ and ‘Kirkonkylän kahvilassa’. Mikkola has also written the script for the classic film ‘Käpy selän alla’ (‘Under Your Skin’). Mikkola herself especially appreciates her work as a translator of poetry. Her performance at the Annikki Poetry Festival will include her Finnish translations of poems by Anna Ahmatova, among others.
Before Marja-Leena Mikkola’s performance, Tampere-based singer-songwriter Kielo Kärkkäinen will perform a selection of classic songs with lyrics written by Marja-Leena Mikkola. A highly skilled singer with a deep voice, Kärkkäinen charges her performance with an intense and concentrated atmosphere. She has released three acclaimed solo albums combining influences from folk, jazz and world music. At the Annikki Poetry Festival, she will also be heard as the vocalist of Pelle & Romantiks.
Ghayath Almadhoun (SY)
Ghayath Almadhoun is a Palestinian poet born in a refugee camp in Syria. After living in Sweden for a long time, he has spent the past few years in Berlin. Before moving to Europe in 2008 as a political refugee, Almadhoun published one poetry collection in Syria. Since then, he has published four works of poetry, the latest of which, the English-language ‘Adrenalin’, came out in 2017. In 2018, the book was nominated for the Best Translated Book Award in the US. Almadhoun’s poetry has been translated into nearly 20 languages. He has also directed a number of poetry films and collaborated with American artist Jenny Holzer and musician Blixa Bargeld, among others. In his poems, Almadhoun often deals with war, destruction, death, homesickness and the guilt of a person who has left their home country. These themes have recently become familiar to Europeans in a new way. At the Annikki Poetry Festival, Almadhoun will be introduced to the audience by author Hassan Blasim.
Surprise Performance: Kati Outinen
Kati Outinen is a legendary actress known to almost all Finns. In addition to her extensive theatre work, she has been seen in countless film roles, the most famous of them directed by Aki Kaurismäki. Outinen, who also served as Professor of Acting for a long time, has strong ties to poetry. Over the years, she has recited the work of several different poets in numerous productions. Outinen is currently also the Artistic Director of Kajaani Poetry Week. Kati Outinen’s autobiography ‘Niin lähelle kuin muistan’ (‘As Close as I Can Remember’) was published last year. The book is also available at the Annikki Poetry Festival. After her performance, you can meet Outinen at the book bazaar’s signing desk.
Pelkkä Poutanen is the solo project of Petra Poutanen, a musician and kantele artist. Described by listeners as an earthquake or the Big Bang, Poutanen’s music combines various string instruments, live electronics, sung poetry and throat singing with great skill. Poutanen uses various musical genres as tools just like instruments, and her experimental music mixes folk traditions with classical and electronic music. Her debut album ‘Pyhä veri vuotaa’ (‘Holy Blood’) was released earlier this year, receiving great reviews and international attention. The album concentrates on the experience of holiness and its absurd manifestations. Poutanen lives in Tampere and is also known as the leader, composer and lyricist of the acclaimed UTU band.
Flying Words Project (USA)
Founded in 1984, Flying Words Project will give the Finnish audience its first introduction to American Sign Language poetry, originally created in sign language. Sign language has been seen in poetry before, but usually only when poetry created by people who hear is interpreted into sign language – this time it is the other way around! Sign language enables rich use of movement and space, resulting in a unique type of poetry that is entirely its own. Flying Words consists of deaf poet Peter Cook, who is known as a delightfully expressive performer, and his co-author Kenny Lerner, who interprets the poems for those who do not know sign language. Flying Words Project has released four DVD collections and appeared at many international festivals.
Accordion player, singer-songwriter and Doctor of Music Antti Paalanen is one of the big names in contemporary Finnish folk music. Known for his wild one-man live show, Paalanen has driven concert audiences to a dancing frenzy both in Finland and abroad. Having been nominated for both the Teosto Prize and the Nordic Council Music Prize, Paalanen has gigged extensively on international stages in countries like Japan and Canada. In addition to recordings he has made as part of countless different line-ups, he has released four solo albums. The latest of these, ‘Rujo’ (‘Rugged’), has lifted him towards mainstream success. Over the years, Paalanen has created his own style, mixing trance-like minimalism, the hypnotism of electronic dance music and impressive throat singing. You definitely shouldn’t miss this!
Title Artist: Teemu Mäenpää
Teemu Mäenpää is the title artist of this year’s Annikki Poetry Festival. A visual artist living in Tampere, he has his roots in street art. Mäenpää is also known as one of Finland’s leading muralists. He has taken part in dozens of individual and group exhibitions in Finland and abroad, and his work is included in several private collections and the Finnish State Art Collection. His work will be displayed at the Annikki Art Kiosk and in various parts of the festival area on the festival day. Mäenpää created a mural featuring poetry by Mirkka Rekola in the vicinity of the Annikki Wooden Quarter in June 2020. ‘Runopuu’(‘Tree of Poetry’) produced by Annikki Poetry Festival is a new landmark for Tampere, and one of the most prominent works of art in the city. Read more!