Edited by Nico Vassilakis


Nico Vassilakis

Why Finland? Why visual poetry? Why Kokoomateos?

There’s a stir going on, a textual free-for-all, a visible shift in how language is being handled in response to the machines in our lives. This is not unusual. We have seen it before: the way in which technology affects the environment that created it. In Finland, visual poetry, in some way, sprang up almost fully formed. There are few antecedents that point to its appearance, yet here it is. The fully mature mingle with the nascent and in so doing form a new constellation of visual poetries. And so an anthology, a kokoomateos, is born.

You are backed into a corner of a dark room. You try to figure out what the history of that corner was before you entered the room. Finland is not where you would consider coming to for visual poetry. There are very few landmark works and poets that tie the past to the future of Finnish postmodern poetry. There are even fewer that stick out and lead the way toward a Finnish visual poetry. An incomplete list of influences would include names like Aaro Hellaakoski (1893–1952), creator of some of the earliest examples of pictorial typography; Eino Leino (1878–1926), considered a pioneer in Finnish poetry; Tyyne Saastamoinen (1924–1998), who used elements of concrete poetry as early as 1962; Pentti Saarikoski (1937–1983), an important poet in the ’60s and ’70s who translated Homer’s Odyssey and James Joyce’s Ulysses into Finnish; Eino Ruutsalo (1921–2001), a pioneer in visual and kinetic arts who made visual poetry; and Väinö Antero Kirstinä (1936–2007), who published concrete and visual poetry in the 1960s. More history must be there awaiting discovery. Perhaps this little anthology of Finnish vispoems will motivate the reader to find it.

Text and the manipulation of text on a page, on the screen, in the air, is one way of traveling through the realities of our experience. The fascination with the visual disassembly and reassembly of textual language material is another. This rises to a compulsion for some. The alphabet drives us forward and into endlessly new and shifting templates of communication. This collection of visual poetry from Finland pushes the drapes back and throws light on these myriad directions. The examples of work made available here support the final idea that text has moved past its familiar boundaries into a future of potential and disparate intentions. Contemporary visual poets create work using a wide array of media. From analog to digital, from formal alphabet to unintentional markings, from static to moving screen, from nature to machine, we expect our visual poets to alter the way we read seeing and see reading.

The ten visual poets in this collection are the here and now, the current Finnish wave. They are engaged and primed to explore and exercise the musculature of language. They adjust and reassess any available materials in an attempt to reach new results. They seem to have succeeded. This is a stepping-stone toward their future.

Cia Rinne constructs aerobic sonorous textual scores; her juxtaposing delights and her concision alarms. J. P. Sipilä offers text accumulation, throbbing moments of alphabet. Jukka-Pekka Kervinen both obliterates and repurposes, making text a new place to be. Mari Laaksonen draws us onto a ghost screen where sound and text bubbles through. Mikko Kuorinki alters the ordinary into a fluxus text. Reijo Valta blends the organic sign with intentional markings. Sami Liuhto presents the asemic found inside writing by way of cursive waves. Satu Kaikkonen delivers problem-solving photographic elements into her composition, into her writing. Tero Hannula gives us variety, a painterly scrawl verging on meaning. Tiina Lehikoinen tells us how a drawn idea can be another form of writing.

This anthology of ten poets is an exhibit of what is currently happening. It shows strong, flexible, and stunning work, and provides a range of potential — a visual poetry platform from which future poets can embark on a Finnish vispo experience. I am excited to present these poets’ works, to raise the vispo flag from a new location, and am pleased this work is part of the global visual poetry fabric.