THE WORLD MIRROR / SPOTLIGHT
Matti Kangaskoski’s second book The Skull Negotiations explores humanity through the mind and bodily functions. ”Poetry has the opportunity to name things in existence and produce lasting insight”, Kangaskoski defines. Among other things, his book takes a look at how, conflictingly, a thing can be of utmost importance in one moment, yet insignificant in the long run.
Hanna Hirvonen and Shurouk Hammoud, interview
Milla Selin, translation from Finnish
Where are you from, and where do you live now, Matti Kangaskoski?
I was born in Finland, in the town of Oulu, where my family spent my first years. After that I have drifted through Vaasa, Jyväskylä and Tampere down to Helsinki, where I moved about 13 years ago. I have also spent a year in Israel when my father was a peacekeeper, later a year as an exchange student in Paris, France, and in recent years about half of my time in the town of Giessen in Germany. Helsinki is definitely my home.
Has your place of residence affected your book?
In The Skull Negotiations (Teos Publishing House, 2017), there is nothing specifically of Helsinki, but of course the environment, the atmosphere of the city, and the people whom with I socialize all influence the things I get interested in and how I write about them. But I dare say that the outcome is not tied to any one place. However, in the forest, on the sea, or in a different social or economical society I would undoubtedly be different myself, and would have written a different kind of book.
Currently Matti Kangaskoski is writing a thesis
about modern poetry. PHOTO: Heini Lehväslaiho.
Why do you write poetry?
For me, art, as well as science, is examining and exploring the world, and human understanding, in a way that seeks a shared experience. It is important to do this. Poetry has the opportunity to name these things in existence and produce lasting insight. I also love to think, study and write, as well as developing different structures of thinking and language, and poetry works the best for that.
In other words, I write because I believe it has significance, and because it gives me pleasure. Or perhaps I think it is meaningful because I like to do it, who knows. Poetry, in any case, is important and even necessary, whether I am writing it or not.
What is your latest book The Skull Negotiations about?
The Skull Negotiations is specifically a study on humanity through the functions of both the mind and the body, mostly in relatively commonplace situations. These situations and the world have been taken apart into pieces, in a way which reveals shapes, sounds, and basic emotions like pleasure and annoyance. The Skull character wanders around town and interprets these basic elements in various ways, and from that the drama of the whole human experience is born.
About half of the book features the Skull character and the everyday, the other, called “red”, is about the relationship of two people in a world where everything is in perpetual renewal starting from the nuclear level. Red is also viewing things partly from within the experience and partly from the outside; the conflicted way something can be of utmost importance one moment, when you know in the long run it will be less so, or even completely insignificant. Both segments look at how perception and experience are born, but from slightly different angles. The book seeks to form a complete picture, therefore all the texts are connected in one way or another.
What where the circumstances at the time of writing this book?
This book was written very carefully, it is the result of a long process of thinking, and observing experience. At the same time, I have been writing a thesis about poetry, and combining the two has required a thoroughly planned schedule and disciplined life. I have also studied contemplative traditions and tried to practice them. In other words, I have tried to create peaceful circumstances for work, which has meant getting rid of various distractions.
How did you publish your book? Did you receive assistance for writing from any source? Where can your book be found?
The Skull Negotiations was published by a publishing co-op called Kustannusosakeyhtiö Teos, like my previous works. I have many sources to be thankful to. My editors and friends Tuomas Timonen and Eino Santanen read and commented on the script. I received financial support for writing from the Finnish Arts Promotion Centre, the Alfred Kordelin Foundation, Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation and WSOY’s Literary Foundation. My books can be bought and ordered from book stores, online, and from the publisher’s website.
How did you feel when you published the book?
The Skull Negotiations has been a peculiar book. Doubt and uncertainty seem like a common experience when writing, and so it has been for me also with other books. I did spend many moments of horror when the text wouldn’t yet work, but for some reason I never worried about the book and even after publishing I have been pleased with it. This state cannot last for long, surely something will soon change.
Are you the same person you were before writing this book? Did it add something to your character or experience?
A poem is born from a writer, who is changed by the writing, which in turn changes the poem, and so forth. On the other hand, people are constantly changing for various reasons, and in a writer’s case, this shows in the writing also. I am not the same person I was when I started to write this book, but it isn’t solely because or thanks to the writing.
If you were not a poet, what would you want to do?
If I could choose freely, I would be a cleaner at the zoo.
Excerpt from Matti Kangaskoski’s book The Skull Negotiations: