Mikaela Nyman

Mikaela Nyman

Mikaela Nyman

Fotograf: Ebony Lamb
Mikaela Nyman: För att ta sig ur en rivström måste man röra sig i sidled. Poetry collection, Ellips förlag, 2023. Nominated for the 2024 Nordic Council Literature Prize.



Two worlds surrounded by water come together thanks to Ålandic author and journalist Mikaela Nyman (born in 1966), who has long lived in New Zealand. In her debut collection, När vändkrets läggs mot vändkrets, nominated for the 2020 Nordic Council Literature Prize, she drew parallels between the islands in the world’s oceans against the background of her sister’s illness and death. 

 In her new collection, För att ta sig ur en rivström måste man röra sig i sidled (in English: “To get out of a rip current, you have to move sideways”), she continues her lyrical exploration of the complexity of existence, which she achieves with convincing literary means. 

 The title alludes to the phenomenon of sea currents that threaten to drag a swimmer down into the depths if they do not move sideways instead of swimming against the waves. Poems are created from this image, like a flow of universal impressions that fill the pages. The graphic design makes the texts pulsate uniquely. Three full stops become a pause, and words take on different meanings thanks to slashes. We’re talking about a commentary that alternates between deep existential questions and the mundane. One moment, Nyman is writing brief diary-like notes, only in the next moment to address the fate of humanity. Our gaze is directed outwards, towards space and the “creaking roar of the universe”, as signals from a lost space capsule are picked up, not unlike the moods in Nobel laureate Harry Martinson’s allegorical tale Aniara

 This lends the texts a powerful dynamic that can be read in several different ways. The pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the climate crisis, and general chaos are set against a deluge of shortcomings: “What happened to all the gentle songs?” In a mad world, the trade in stuffed animals increases as bombs rain down on defenceless victims. 

 Nevertheless, we can sense a hint of light in the darkness, with children as lightbearers in their spontaneity. Mikaela Nyman often takes her time over naming the animals and plants: molluscs, budgies, painted ladies, wisteria. It’s still not too late to plant sunflowers. She writes in connection with Maori myths, with the water spirit Taniwha as both a source of threat and a force of comfort. 

 The poems’ precision of expression culminates in a series of commentaries on writings in sandstone exposed by the tide on the New Zealand coast. These are traces of lives and dreams: “with my cheek against the sand, I allow myself to believe”.