What made you want to submit this poem to our Polyphonic feature?
Poet Maija Mäkinen: There are very few places where it’s possible to feel like one person—whole—when you are bilingual in Finnish and English. My brain and consciousness are always seething with those two languages, so when I saw the Polyphony submission call, it was like, I thought no one would ever ask.
In what way do you see your visual response as “Polyphonic?”
Artist Anya Ermak: It was a little mysterious as to “What is exactly happening here in this poem?”
What surprises you in the artist’s response to your poem?
Poet Maija Mäkinen: The sadness in Anya’s drawing came as a surprise—I hadn’t seen the sadness in my own words, only the pain and frustration of trying to understand and be understood across language and cultural lines with my ex-partner (who, speaking of polyphony, onomatopoeically shares a name with the artist).
How does a sense of polyphony enhance or challenge your creative work?
Poet Maija Mäkinen: For as long as I’ve been a writer, I’ve dreamed of being able to invent a way of writing that encompasses my two languages—a kind of writing that hits at the essences of things without being specifically anchored in one particular, culturally recognizable voice. I’m always looking for ways to infuse my written English with some of the rawness and earthiness of Finnish. In the end, I guess it’s a search for a language that would authentically represent the heart and mind of someone who is made up of two.
What do you think is the role of art in regards to real-world, real-time events? In other words, what makes a “successful” occasional or political piece of writing or art?
Artist Anya Ermak: To leave an impact through awakening not only an emotional response but an experiential connection with an urge for action.
Poet Maija Mäkinen: Art is successful when it wrenches an emotional response out of us at the same time as it creates a space for clarity. When it goes to the heart of the matter, bypassing explanations, justifications, commentary, and considerations. When it makes us see, understand, and draw strength. When it connects us to each other. All you have to do to understand the power of art is to imagine what tomorrow would look like if we awoke to no artists, no stories, no art.
If the Broadsided collaboration were a piece of music, what would it be?
Artist Anya Ermak: Ummm, something heavy and eerie at the same time?
Poet Maija Mäkinen: A series of jazz riffs—a conversation between a tuba and a saxophone?
What is your favorite phrase or word translated from a language other than English?
Artist Anya Ermak: Japanese: “Ganbatte!” A word of encouragement meaning anything in between “Do your best!” to “Good luck” that can be used when facing any challenge—from things you’d like to do excitedly, or all the way to things that have to be done inevitably.
Poet Maija Mäkinen: My favorite word in the world is “hän”—Finnish for she or he. I love the non-gendered humanity of the word—it’s about being a human being, not a girl, boy, man, or woman.
How did you choose the “Vectorization” site for your collaboration (pictured left) and, if anything were possible, where in the world would you most love to discover your broadside posted?
Artist Anya Ermak: Train station in Helsinki?
Poet Maija Mäkinen: My first full-time job in New York was on the same block as The Coffeeshop, a classic restaurant across the street from Union Square. Ever since then, many things—the death of my grandmother, jobs, relationships, breakups—have been connected to this square, including the relationship in the poem. I taped the broadside to the wall of the now-defunct restaurant, and a friend caught my reflection in the window with her camera. As for where I’d like to see it… I’d be amazed to see it ANYWHERE.
Read any good books lately?
Artist Anya Ermak: Parenting self-help–I have 2 wonderful boys, 14 and 10, and they make sure to leave me searching for answers at times, as they should 😉
Poet Maija Mäkinen: Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend, Sebastian Barry’s Days Without End, and a re-read of Toni Morrison’s Beloved.
Seen any good art lately?
Artist Anya Ermak: Outstanding sculptures by a great person and super-good friend: ZhannaMartin.com
Poet Maija Mäkinen: Romare Bearden’s jazz paintings, and the entire American Art section at The Mint in Charlotte, NC—with the highest ratio of works by female artists that I’ve possibly ever seen. A fresh, beautiful, diverse exhibition that makes you realize how alive art can be.
Anything else? (Here, we invite the collaborators to invent a question, add a comment, or otherwise speak to what the questions so far have not tapped about their Broadsided experience).
Artist Anya Ermak: Love what you guys do here on Broadsided, thank you for sharing it all! Hey an idea: how about a local day tour by the collaborators for each other some day should they ever cross each other’s hoods? Maybe a trip to a local museum ? A hike? Or a walk around their town trying some local foods? And snap that broadside selfie?