Interview with Pauliina Haasjoki

When arriving to the Baltic Centre she finds it exciting looking at the names on the board outside the common kitchen. Maybe she recognizes somebody on the guest list, by their works or because she has met them here before. – I have many good memories of the social dimension here. People come and go and I appreciate the combination of security and the surprise element of who is here right now and what kind of interaction there will be, says the Finnish poet Pauliina Haasjoki.

An early evening in February Pauliina Haasjoki is sitting huddled in a couch with a hot chocolate after a day in the company of books at the Baltic Centre for Writers and Translators. She is often playing the piano in the drawing room at the upper floor – a relaxing activity, she thinks.
– Almost all the arts are meaningful for me. I like singing and dancing too, and to draw and make collages, she says. She has traveled several times before over the Baltic Sea from the home in Helsinki to the Centre in Visby.
– When you have the experience of being able to work well at a place, it is like an encouragement in writing, she says. I come here with the feeling of positive energy. Her seventh poetry book, Planeetta (”Planet”), which she worked with during her last stay at the Centre, will be published in Finland this spring. This time in Visby she is writing on an essay book called Tietoliikenne (“Telecommunications”), and she is reading a lot and taking notes.
– I enjoy looking at the horizon. It makes concentrating easier when you can allow your gaze to go far, she thinks.
Last year Pauliina Haasjoki received the prize Översättarbjörnen (“The Translator Bear”) by the Finnish public service-house Yle together with Peter Mickwitz, for their translation of Solgrönt (1933), a poetry book by Gunnar Björling, from Swedish into Finnish (Auringonvihreä, Poesia, 2015).
– I learnt quite a lot Swedish while we were working with it and I enjoyed very much working as pair, she tells me.
Pauliina started to write poems when she was 17 years old, at a time when she discovered the freedom of that expression.
– I remember that I had the same feeling of freedom about stories when I was about 14 years old, that I could just make what I wanted to happen and I could see and experience whatever I wanted through the words. I suppose my stories were lyrical, even if I didn´t know that they were lyrical then, she says adding:
– Around the time when I discovered the freedom of expressing myself through poetry, I lost that feeling in writing prose. Poetry is what comes naturally to me, but I am trying to write an essay now and I write diary all the time, which is also a kind of prose. Writing in my diary is a continuous thing that is always with me. She has studied and done research in literature at the university in the Finnish town of Turku. The fictional debut was in 1999, a poetry book with the Finnish title Ikkunassa on huone (”There´s a Room in the Window”).
– I would call it impressionistic, she says. I almost entirely included things that were from the natural experience, the one that I could sense. At the same time it is also quite fantastic and romantic in some way. Today I get my inspiration from everywhere, even from literature and film. I guess that I am more bold today, in the sense that I am older and I know that I am allowed to include more of the world in the poems than when I was younger.

Three different places on a single beach of stones
Parts of her poetry books have been translated into different European languages and have been published in anthologies. Last year lines from her poetry book “Hair” (Hiukset) were put on library windows in the American state of Iowa, together with quotations from works by other authors. It was during Pauliina´s trip to different parts of North America and New Zealand.
– New Zealand is so special for us here in Scandinavia because it is the other side of the world. My poetry book “Planet” contains many impressions from that country. The “othersideness” of something is significant for the book. She used to stare at the horizon from the cliff in the old town of Visby, imagining the Baltic Sea as a huge ocean with something unknown beyond, not just the coast of Sweden.
– That kind of longing went away a little bit when I went around the world. Now when I have seen islands in the big oceans, I don´t imagine Gotland as an island at the same dreamlike kind of way as before, she says. Her favorite spots in Gotland are Fridhem and Högklint a little bit south of Visby and Villa Muramaris some kilometres north of the town.
– These are genuine and precious places for me, which I have discovered during biking tours along the coast. I didn´t know what was there and I just ended up at these places, she says and continues:
– I also like Black Sheep Arms, a friendly down to earth pub that offers good music. I´ve brought people from the Centre there quite a few times, but I also enjoy going there by myself talking to the bartender. Often Pauliina is walking to the Botanical Garden through the narrow alleys of Visby.
– I have tried to walk on every street inside the city walls, but I don´t know if I have managed or if I missed one, she says laughing. First time she discovered Fridhem, she had just found the book Letters and Journals at a flea market in Visby. The book was written by the Zelanian/British author Katherine Mansfield.
– Fridhem and Högklint remind me of Cornwall at the south west coast of England. I have been in Cornwall and Mansfield also is there in the journals. When I was sitting there on the stone beach of Fridhem reading, I felt a link between these three places: Gotland, Cornwall and New Zealand. This link became a path that I could follow in my own writing, she tells me while the cathedral of St Mary strikes six outside the window. – It is funny to actually get used to that sound, that it becomes your alarm clock. The first morning I woke up here during my first visit at the Centre, I was surprised by the church bells. It was unexpected, dreamlike and even a little bit eerie, but in a good way, she says before going for a walk down the cliff to hand back some books at the library.

Text: Maria Molin Foto: Virpi Alanen

Abstract from “Hair” (Hiukset, 2013)
“Somewhere near here it fell. It contains information and immeasurable riches. Without it the sky is somehow lonely. But here its tail lights a fire on the trees for miles on end, quiet smouldering in the souls, we are so lucky to have had it dig itself into our soil. How do we get our hands on it? Will we know it when we see it? The forest is taciturn. All the way down to its roots it wills the treasure to everyone to no-one; it has no concept for individual. It won't give.”

Diktsamlingar av Pauliina Haasjoki
Planeetta (Planet), 2016
Hiukset (Hair), 2013
Aallonmurtaja (Breakwater), 2011
Pääskynen ja lepakko (The Swallow and the Bat), 2009
Epäilyttävät puut (Suspicious Trees), 2005
Ukkosen odottajat (Awaiters for Thunder), 2002
Ikkunassa on huone (There's a Room in the Window), 1999

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