In memory of Marko Niemi

This issue, released amidst the corona pandemia and it’s unexpected effects is dedicated to the memory of Marko Niemi, pioneer in Finnish digital poetry who passed away last September at the age of 45. He was the editor in chief at Nokturno from 2006 to 2014. During his active years in digital poetry he collaborated with many poets and part of them now commemorate him with their poems, essays and finds from their archives. In this issue Niemi’s last work Maapallo (Planet Earth) sees the daylight in the digital world for the first time.

Niemi created Maapallo (Planet Earth), two part looping digital poetry piece to the poetry festival Runokuu where it was displayed at the lobby of the Helsinki City Hall. After several years of hiatus in his own work he this time accepted an invitation to create a new piece. Maapallo was born during the summer of 2019 amidst the ever rising concerns about the climate crisis. Niemi didn’t only address this theme but continued further and reflected also interplanetary possibilities for humankind – and how far apart they are. The hypnotic work consist of an ever-spinning globe formed by text. Each sentence begins with the question ”Do you remember…”. Second part of the work is an ongoing search process, consisting of attempts to find a new Earth-like planet for us to live in. While creating this piece Niemi decided to continue his work in the field of digital poetry with new tools and new ideas but to our immense grief he died of a sudden attack.

Literary scholars Kristian Blomberg and Juri Joensuu share an academic and poetic interest in Marko Niemi’s work. Both of them knew him for several years. Joensuu is one of Finland’s most significant researchers of experimental literature and Blomberg, a close friend of Niemi’s, is also an awarded poet and publishing editor at Poesia, a co-operative of which Niemi and Blomberg are both founding members of. In their elegiac essay Jäähyväiset Maapallolle (Farewell to Planet Earth) Blomberg and Joensuu approach Niemi’s last work and unwrap it’s meanings and aesthetics through the concept of session.

Poet, writer and climate activist Henriikka Tavi is present in this issue in two releases. First of them is Uusi Joulukuu (New December) based on her 2012 conceptual project where she tried to ”make a living with poetry” by publishing 12 poetry books in one year. New December is a website continuing the idea presented in her printed poetry book December. Tavi has realised it in collaboration with her friends around the world. Each of them writes about the ways in which climate has changed in their home places. The bilingual website will be complementing with more material.

This month marks the anniversary of Runoilijat Gretan kanssa (Poets for Future), an event organized by Tavi in Helsinki. Tens of poets took part on 29th of March 2019 in the event reading their poems at the stairs of the Finnish parliamentary house, showing their support to the climate movement inspired by Swedish Greta Thunberg. Marko Niemi was also there, reading his translation Perikato (Poesia, 2017), a dystopian poetry book by Finnish Swede Ulrika Nielsen. Niemi was also an accomplished translator of poetry by Finnish Swede women poets. Nokturno now releases a compilation from the event including a poem Tavi wrote for the event and a video recording of sound artist Juha Valkeapää’s performance.

Dan Waber is a versatile digital, visual and conceptual poet from United States. He collaborated with Niemi in several works and they shared a fascination towards minimalism and animated poetry. love letter is dedicated to the memory of marko. Waber’s beautiful piece brings comfort in sadness entailing ideas of continuity and community, the impact a person can have and memories that live on.

Jim Andrews, another long time collaborator of Niemi’s wrote an essay on his international projects which included new works but also restoration of central works of digital poetry. Marko the Internationalist Poet-Programmer Translator Net Artist in the Service of Poetry also contains a webliography of Niemi’s work on various websites. Andrews is a poet, net artist and editor at vispo.com dedicated to digital and visual poetry and net art.

Marko’s close friend Mikael Brygger, poet and professor at the University of Arts Helsinki went through his archives and found a rare gem, an interview with Niemi from 2011 (in Finnish). Brygger asked him about his favourite works, how he began with digital poetry and what inspires him. All links in the interview are updated and while reading you can wander from one fascinating work to another.

Niemi’s body of work also includes love poetry, often with a twist of procedural writing. Together with his friend and long time colleague, poet Miia Toivio he wrote Suut (Mouths) (Poesia, 2012) a classic of (post)modern love poetry in Finland. Taneli Viljanen’s series of poems valo ihon alla: vokaali-invokaatio responds to this side of Niemi’s work. Viljanen read poems from the series at the memorial event organized at Writer’s House Villa Kivi in Helsinki in November 2019. In this context the poems become a homage to Niemi’s manifold interests and the surprising union connecting their poems, one between procedural writing and sensuality.

This issue also features Hänen jalanjälkensä (His footprints), a digital poem by our web designer Teemu Tuovinen, based on a poem by yours truly from the poetry book Kuten avata äkisti (Kolera, 2015). Tuovinen’s digital design draws from the imagery of the poem and was born as a spontaneous reaction to the sudden moment last Fall when his colleague had lost her partner in work and in life.

Last but not least we publish a series of kinetic and conceptual poems from years 2006-2008 from poet and journalist Karri Kokko. During these years (and after) Niemi had a big impact on many poets and artists working in the field of digital poetry in Finland, not least because with Nokturno he was providing a platform for it to flourish. The poems feature a text where Kokko describes the significance Niemi had on his work. Niemi was known for his expertise in JavaScript and he often helped colleagues who needed help in realising their ideas, even with other languages. Poems in the series are mainly realised with the now almost obsolete marquee element of HTML. Together with Flash-animated poetry marquee poetry was an important phase in the close history of Finnish digital poetry.

Making this issue has likely been a part of the grief process for many of us. In the face of a great loss art and writing about art are means to understand the altered world and different meanings a person lost had in our lives, personally and professionally. And in time the loss will be accompanied by realization of the ways in which the lost one is still present.


Virpi Vairinen
editor in chief

ps. This Spring we welcome submissions and publish new poetry also outside our regular schedules. More information here. The next issue will be released in June and the deadline for submissions is 15th of May.

pps. As the corona virus is raging and our daily lives are in turmoil in the quarantine circumstances the internet has proven to be (besides a place for mis- and disinformation, provocation and hate speech) a way for people to connect to each other and to more than usually explore discoveries and achievements in science, arts and journalism.

Amidst the tragic news and uncertainty this situation also holds a seed for change. We are forced to rethink our relationship to the corporeal reality but we also have a chance to rethink our relationship to the internet and make a difference in what kind of a digital world we hope to have.

(image: Maapallo – Marko Niemi