Wilma-Emilia Kuosa is a rising dance artist, singer and poet writer from Finland, living in Nice and in Helsinki, who is working internationally in the jazz dance field. Her first poetry book, “The Anatomy of a Titanium Heart” (Finnish: Titaanisydämen anatomia) was published in January 2020 by Basam Books. It is a poetry novel dealing with a topic that is very relevant in the Finnish society: alcohol abuse. In an inspiring interview poet Wilma-Emilia explains how she came up with the idea for the poetry book and her concern of how alcohol abuse has affected the Finnish society in the past years. And she talks about some other interesting music and art projects.
- Alcohol abuse in finland – A socially relevant problem to which no one should close the eyes (Interview with Wilma-Emilia Kuosa)
- Artist profile of Wilma-Emilia Kuosa
- Some facts about alcohol consumption in Finnland and in the European Union
- Win an “Anatomy of a Titanium Heart” poetry book!
Alcohol abuse in Finland – A socially relevant problem to which no one should close the eyes – Interview with Wilma-Emilia Kuosa
Moi Wilma-Emilia, it’s so nice to see you again. I have just read the article about you, published at the Basam Books website and now I am really curious to hear more about the book you have released in mid-January. The book is dealing with a socially relevant topic: alcoholism. How did you come up with the idea to write a poetry novel about this topic?
I have always written poetry about different socially relevant themes for my dance productions. When I started to write this poetry novel, I thought, it would become my third dance concert piece for the stage. But after I had written it for about a year, I realized, that it will become a book instead. So, I kept on writing for more than two years.
Then some of my friends told me to get a little bit crazy and contact my favourite Finnish poet, Arno Kotro, which I didn’t know in person at this point. He is a very famous Finnish writer and columnist and also a renowned philosophy teacher in Helsinki. And so, I searched the internet for his contact details and then asked him kindly, if he would read my poems. My poetry bows to his book “They call it love” (Sanovat sitä rakkaudeksi), so I thought he would be the perfect mentour for me. We met and he encouraged me to publish the book. He is my mentor for more than two years now.
So tell us a bit more about your poetry book “The Anatomy of Titanium Heart”. What are the poems about?
Of course! My poetry novel “Titaanisydämen anatomia”, which is the Finnish name of the book, gives a voice to a minority, that I think we mostly ignore. The book is written from the perspective of an alcoholic’s closest person. In short it gives a voice to a woman, who falls in love with an alcoholic. It tells the story of one relationship and a really vicious circle. With my poetry book, I want to give light to what happens to a person, who has to carry an alcoholic.
And I want to point out, how such a relationship could influence the person, who goes “healthy” into this doomed relationship. It also shows, what happens to her, when she battles not only for love but also against alcoholism. I also talk about sexuality and about the power games, that can go on in this kind of relationship. Which means, how sex can be used against a person to gain more power in a relationship. So finally, we can say this is a really “unhealthy” relationship, I describe in my poetry book.
And why I decided to write the book from a perspective of a person who’s partner is an alcoholic is, that I feel, that alcoholics can go to all this centers and rehabilitation programs and there are so many ways to take care of alcoholics, but where do the people go, who carry these addicts? Where do the partners and children of the alcoholics go? Who is looking after them? Because there is always a person behind the addicted person!
So would you say, alcohol abuse is a serious problem in Finland?
Yes, as you probably know, the drinking culture in Finland is quite crazy. So, what would not be acceptable for example in France is okay in Finland. For many Finns it is for example okay to pass out in a family party. I don’t think this is okay. I have never seen someone pass out in a French party. But here in Finland, it seems to be normal for example on midsummer night eves or at Christmas. It’s absurd, that alcohol abuse has become a part of our tradition and culture and that it’s seen like a normal behavior. I don’t think this is okay. You can have fun without getting so hammered.
And I think it’s also a big problem of my generation, of the Y-generation or Millennials, as you will call us. Because we are the generation, who already drank beer hidden in plastic bags in the parks, when we were underaged. And we were going to rock concerts, when we were too young. Let me say, that we were some kind of a “rebel generation” in between this fitness generation and what came before.
Moreover, I know a lot of people whose parents are alcoholics and I myself have dated some very bad boys in my life. So, this is the problem of my generation. I hear stories about alcoholism all the time and I think it has become a national disease in Finland.
Have you noticed a change in drinking among the younger people? Or do you think, the problem is still becoming bigger all the time?
I think there is a change. My little sister’s generation is another generation. They grew up with smart phones. They have access to yoga apps at a young age, so they don’t need to go kill time and drink in a park. I think the younger generation is more interested in well-being. For them, it’s important to be fit, to have a normal weight.
I am not sure, if this is the best way to evolve, but at least, it’s not about drinking all the time. I am happy about this. I think this generation has other problems, like pressure about how you look and what you eat. I think you cannot buy balance in an app. But if it works for somebody else, why not.
I think the modern society is too concentrated on the appearance and less keen on the soul-searching part. Looks will go, but the soul is there forever. So, you have to support the soul. That’s why we need poetry, because it’s the material of the soul. And I hope there will be a change, because I haven’t seen many people younger than me, reading books rather than scrolling phones. I hope this will turn around at some point and people become more curious about what is going on on the inside, instead of how it looks like.
So back to the book: You put in the book your own experiences but also things you observed in your closest environment. What else has contributed to the book?
Of course I had my personal experiences and then I have also seen a lot of bad stuff happening to people around me due to alcohol. I also made a research about the topic. I have gone online and read many articles about alcoholics and alcohol abuse, so everything I could gather from this information I have taken to write these poems. Some stories are from real life, some are from the news. And I have talked to as many people as possible about this topic. So the book is not “make up”, you know. I am a researcher and I have researched this subject for a long time. And I tried to make it so real, that it would touch people. That’s why it took four years of work.
Did you also talk to addicts and the people, who were trapped in such an “unhealthy” relationship?
Sure, I talked to children, who have grown up with parents, who were alcoholics. And I talked to people who have dated alcoholics or been married to one of them. And then of course I talked to the men and women who are addicted to alcohol and asked them how they see the relationship and the addiction. This was sometimes really hard to bear, so I cried a lot.
So what is the reason that people stay in such relationships, although they feel and mostly know, that this relationship is not good for them at all?
Well, that’s the problem. Every time we fall in love, most of the time we become a bit blind, so we will accept these things, that in a normal situation we would never accept. And when we fall in love, we often see only the positive qualities and suppress the bad ones. But when you look at it later on from the outside perspective, you see, that you have been really stupid to tolerate such a behavior and that you would never ever want someone to treat you like this again. Respect has to be earned and build, but it is not there only because you fell in love.
And how easy is it to escape from such a doomed relationship?
Well, I have seen several destinies, that keep on happening. I have seen these couples that stayed together and then the other person became an alcoholic too, which I think is the saddest option. Most of the people who get lost in it, can’t find a way out. If you are constantly together with someone who drinks, of course you will start drinking. Maybe you wanna revenge or you wanna be like him. You wanna understand the person. That’s why you tried to behave like this other person. And that’s of course a very bad option.
I have also seen people who break up and after that, the person who wasn’t an alcoholic before, starts struggling with alcohol abuse, because he or she has learned this habit. That’s why I think breaking up is necessary but it’s not a solution for the problem. You have to go through it.
And I also have seen people, who had a massive heart break and then started using alcohol on a daily basis. I believe there should be a middle line, but nevertheless, I think it’s a very dangerous disease. And I think these are the stories, people are not talking about, because they feel so ashamed. But I think surviving such an “unhealthy” relationship or to manage to stop drinking is a gift, so you should be proud.
What do you think helps people to stop drinking and to get out of this vicious circle? I often read, that for example music helps to get another sense in life.
Yes, music is a good tool, but I think all kind of arts could help, or for example a book, that inspires you. It could be a beautiful painting or a photography. It must be something, that gives you a kind of exit from this unhealthy reality and gives you space to dream and feel. It must be something, that gives you hope, that there will be a better day, that reminds you, that you won’t be stuck with this problem forever. For me and I think for a lot of people it’s music. Or it can be an inspiring story as well.
What would you say, is also important? What should be done to help alcoholics and their relatives?
I think there should be more education about this topic. And AA-clinics, should take more in consideration also the people who support the alcoholics. There should be more self-help groups for the partners and for their children.
I think the problem is a lot bigger, than expected. It’s the same with any sort of addiction. They will help you to the point, when you quit. You should be fine then. But once you quit, you have nothing. You don’t know where to go. And I think the real work starts with the day you quit and when you want to make a change.
It’s important to have people around you, family and friends, who will support you and help you to quit and to stay sober. There’s always a risk that you will become an outcast, because when you are struggling with such an addiction, its often hard to hold on to a job.
It is also very important that the people around you don’t drink too much. For example, when you work in an industry, that supports partying and you often have access to alcohol or drugs. Then it’s always hard to get out of the scene, you know. And unfortunately, in the eyes of our society, you will have more fun, when you drink, but I don’t think that’s true. You can have just as much fun without alcohol. But I think it’s also a Finnish habit, that you have to drink, before you go out. And later you don’t remember the fun you had, when you were going out, because you drank so much. It’s a really vicious circle.
You said, that you would love to develop also a dance concert with the poems. How can we imagine this?
I like what I was already able to do with the “Geisha Dance Concert“. I will use the poetry to become songs, paintings and dialogues or maybe a speech. I would say that my next dance concert would become something like physical theatre. I have gathered a group of professionals to work with. It will be dramatized, because the book needs to be put on stage. For that I have the brilliant choreographer and dramaturg Jarkko Lehmus. I asked him to turn the book into a stage version. Then I have asked the director Henry Hanikka to direct it for the stage. And then I have someone for the lightning concept and the sound. I will be one of the performers in the performance.
Actually, after I have handed them the book, I am going to do what they say, so I don’t actually know, how It will look like, until we start rehearsals. I have created this world and now I am giving it to other people, so that they can make it come alive. And Jarkko is also a brilliant dancer, so I have asked him to perform with me. It will become a capturing duet.
And if a topic is hard, you have to face other ways to approach it. Because if I would just read my poems out loud, you wouldn’t get the message. I try to find ways to play with that, so it has multiple colours and layers, so you can choose as a viewer, which are the things, that will touch you and will influence you and talked to you.
By the way, I will perform some poetry of my book “Anatomy of a Titanium Heart” together with with DJ Bunuel on February 24th 2020 at Bistro Harju8 in Helsinki and on March 3rd 2020 at the Helsinki Central Library Oodi. More information about the events you will find on my facebookpage.
And will you put it only on stage in Finland, but also in France and in some other countries?
We will start in Finland, because the book is in Finnish. I hope, that I could translate the book into English and into French later on, but I believe it will take a long time. And I think it’s important first, to do it properly in one language and then we can dream about the other languages. But the language of dance is universal. I don’t think that will be a problem in general. Even if the texts are only in Finnish, you always can read the body language.
Would you say, that the translation of a poetry book is more difficult than translating other forms of literature?
Yes, I think so. With poetry it is so important, that the message behind is clear. I speak in my book about the topic in a way that will correspond to the Finnish culture, soul and awareness of things. I am talking, I would say in a Nordic way. I think the Scandinavian people share the same kind of scenario.
But if I would go to the south of France, I have to change it a lot. Because these people have another culture, have other habits and for example the don’t have snow in the winter time. They don’t know how it feels like to have t the day of first snow, you know. And that’s why you have to find other ways to connect with people around. And I think for that reason for a translation I really need good translators, who take all this into consideration.
Your book has been published in mid-January and I heard, that you have already been to some book fairs in Finland. So where can we order your book right now?
Yes, I have done two fairs now, the “I love me” and the book fair which is called “Kirjamessut” in Helsinki. I have been at the fair stand, talking to people and answering questions about my book. It was nice, I love meeting people. And I think it’s a really good way, to make this alcohol abuse topic more present in the Finnish society. I am hoping that this book would inspire also some alcoholics to think about their behavior, to see how much they hurt the people around them. Because I think, that this addiction is also a very selfish disease. If you are interested, you can order the book via the website of the Academic bookstore and if you’d like to know more about my work, just have a look on my artist website.
Maybe you would like to talk at the end of the interview also a bit of the other projects you have at the moment, cos I saw that you have already been on stage singing together with guitarist Markku Laurén.
Yes, I am singing with Markku Laurén and we’ve played together for almost 15 years now. Every now and then, we do some gigs together. For example, we have been on stage together at my book release party in mid-January. He is an Irish music specialist and a brilliant guitar player. He taught me to sing Irish music and after that I started endeavoring in Blues, in country music and in jazz, so we play this “old-time music” and traditional Irish songs, as well.
In November we had a charity gig for this elders’ house of Alzheimer in Helsinki called Leevikoti. It’s quite amazing to play to these people, because normally if I would just go and talk to them, they might not even acknowledge me. But with the music you can touch them in a different way, so they told us, that we made people speak, who haven’t spoken in two years. And singing is just like dancing, it’s the body, who is being moved to express something very important. We have some gigs coming up and big plans for next autumn.
It’s really impressive, how many projects you have. Are there other projects coming up?
Yes, it‘s normal, because it’s hard to be a freelance artist. You have to be versatile. I am teaching, at the moment, a lot of jazz dance workshops in Finland. I had, for example four workshops after Christmas last December. And I am choreographing a lot, doing dance numbers in different styles. I also started a collaboration with a local dance collective in West-Africa, on the Riviera of Benin.
I was there for an artistic residency at the countryside for six weeks last autumn and taught dance and yoga to the orphans and to the staff of the residency place. And I started training the local dance collective. There are only boys from 14 to 24 years old. And of course, we worked on the Geisha Dance concert, and we performed it.
And how did you feel about the people in West Africa?
They were the kindest people, that I have ever met. They thought that I was very generous, cause I wanted to work with the community. I took a lot of time to get to know these people, to understand what they were talking about. This was very also very hard for me, because I come from a different world.
For example, they have never seen snow and on the country side they don’t have houses with doors. They only have houses of clay and leaves. And I think they treated everyone with the same kindness and respect and gratefulness, which was very touching. They would share whatever they had with me and invited me everywhere and make sure that everybody who was with me, was always happy and safe.
It was something, that has influenced me a lot. And I am trying to keep that in mind, when I live in this world of privilege. And since then I am always thinking: Do I really need all this, or could I cope with a lot less. And I try to take good care of the people around me.
And has the “The Geisha dance concert” with its topic of female rights reached the African people?
That was pretty problematic. I wanted to talk with the local women about that, to understand their point of view. But by all I tried to do to get in contact with them, I always was faced with the men. So unfortunately, I still don’t know, what the local women think about equality.
Normally, I am someone, who gets to know people easily and I was really frustrated, that in Africa I could only talk to the men. That was really shocking for me, but of course I met some beautiful people, even though they were only men.
I think that is the answer to your question. In West Africa there is a big need to talk about human rights for women, because from my point of view the women have very little rights. They are silenced, they are housewives. Many of them don’t attend school. I met women who hardly could write their first name. It was horrible.
You can’t change a culture, but you can raise awareness. That was the thing I wanted to do. And I think in my own way I did this, but naturally I have only scratched the surface. Maybe I would have had the chance to meet some woman, if I had stayed longer. I went to Africa to talk about equal human rights and I found out, that there is a big difference in equality between men and women.
You said, it was a really shocking experience for you. How has this stay in Africa changed your view of things and your everyday life?
Everything was so different there in Africa, so that I found it very hard to talk about in Finland. Because it didn’t come up in a normal subject, because everything we do, we think that is normal like taking a shower or going to a grocery store that is closer to impossible there.
I think I need to write some poetry about it, to be able to address it. I think there is already one poem published on my Facebook profile, that I wrote, when I was in Africa. It’s called “Näkinkenkiä”. I think that is my best attempt to talk about Africa, so far, you know. Because everything I experienced was so “out of this world”.
Nevertheless, it was a really interesting experience for me to be the “weird one” in Africa, cos for many people in Finland the “maahanmuutajat”, the immigrants are the “weird ones”, and even when I don’t think so, the society thinks, that the immigrants are a problem, that has to be solved. But in Africa I was the white person, who didn’t understand anything what was going on. I think to have this experience as an outsider, was also very humbling.
"Näkinkenkiä"Näkinkenkiä kaikki tyynnirosoisen elämän sirpaleita hiekassatoisiinsa auttamattomasti sekoittuneina…
Wow, really interesting interview. Thank you very much for it. I wish you good luck for all your projects and also for the translation of your poetry book.
Thank you Inken, it was nice to talk to you again. And if you come to Helsinki, let me know. Would be nice to invite you to one of my gigs, workshops or dance concerts.
About Wilma-Emilia Kuosa
Wilma-Emilia Kuosa is a young and rising jazz dance artist, singer and poetry writer from Helsinki, Finland. She is living and working in Nice and Helsinki, giving jazz dance workshops globally. Last autumn she traveled to the artistic residency of Villa Karo in Benin, West Africa.
Wilma-Emilia Kuosa has studies at the famous Off Jazz Dance Center in Nice, France. She has also spent time at several important European dance centers e.g. at the „SEAD“ in Salzburg (Austria), the „Dance Station” in Munich (Germany), the “Dance Studio Harmonic” in Paris (France) or at the popular dance school “Pineapple Dance Studios” in London (Great Britain).
She is open for charity performances and has already created three dance concert concepts: The “Geisha dance concert”, the “Jazz & Dance” and the “Neglected dance concert”. The Geisha Dance Concert, which is dealing with female rights in modern society, has also been combined with a photo exhibition.
“Titaanisydämen Anatomia” (English title: The Anatomy of a Titanium Heart”) is her first book published by Basam Books. It can be ordered from Academic bookstore. The book release party was held on 27th January 2020 in the Helsinki Bar Loose. The book is a poetry novel, dealing with a socially relevant topic: alcohol abuse. A topic that in Finland is still a huge problem. Wilma-Emilia Kuosa wants to draw more attention to that social health problem and also wants to give people a voice, who have to live around alcoholics.
Up-Coming live-gigs with poetry of the book “Anatomy of a Titanium Heart” with Wilma-Emilia Kuosa and DJ Bunuel
- 24.02.2020: Bistro Harju8, Harjutori 8, Helsinki, Finland
- 03.03.2020: Central library Oodi, Töölönlahdenkatu 4, Helsinki, Finland
Some facts about alcohol consumption in Finnland and in the European Union
Finland belongs to the European countries where alcohol consumption is highly regulated by the government. High-proof beverage is only available in the state owned “Alko” shops. Beer is sold only to people at the age of 18 and really hard alcohol only to adults over 20 years of age.
In March 2018 the Finnish government relaxed the alcohol regulations. Now beverages with an alcohol percentage until 5,5 per cent (before 4,7) are available in supermarkets, which include many strong beers, mixed drinks and soft drinks like the famous Lonkero, a gin grapefruit drink. Also small breweries can now sell their products directly, which has caused a real boom of Microbreweries all over the country. Simultaneously the Finnish government raised the alcohol taxes. Finland is one of the countries in the European Union with the highest alcohol prizes.
The “Status report on alcohol consumption, harm and policy responses in 30 European countries”, published in 2019, which is based on content data of the years 2010 to 2016, shows, that alcohol consumption has not declined in the European Union, as much as requested, also there exists an EU-measurement-plan for reducing damage caused by alcohol (2012-2010), signed by all members of the European Union. More than 290.000 people lost their live every year, caused by alcohol related issues. And already the Global status report on alcohol and health abuse (2014) comes to the conclusion, that alcohol is still the most addictive substance under all habit-forming drugs.
The „EU Status Report on alcohol consumption, harm and policy responses in 30 European countries 2019“ shows also, that especially young people in the countries of the European Union, as well as in Norway and Switzerland elder than 15 years consume more than two bottles of wine per week. And if teetotaler and former drinkers were eliminated from the data, adults consume even more than three bottles of wine per week. An alcohol consumption, which will cause serious health problems.
Moreover, especially binge-drinking is a huge problem between young people. “Alcohol is one of the leading causes of death among our young people, therefore, we cannot remain inactive. ”, said Dr. Carina Ferreira Borges, leader of the program of alcohol and illegal drugs of the WHO regional office in Europe and points out: “Alcohol products are advertised regularly and offered to young people – despite the knowledge that alcohol consumption has harmful effects on brain development and physical health. We have the next generation of leaders here and we need to protect them. The action plan has only one year left, so we have to increase our efforts significantly.”
Other articles about jazz dance artist Wilma-Emilia Kuosa
“Anatomy of a Titanium Heart“ prize draw
You are interested in the topic “alcohol abuse” in modern Finnish society and you like to know how Wilma-Emilia Kuosa has made a litterary approach to this topic with her poetry book? Then take part at the “The Anatomy of a Titanium Heart” prize draw. (Please note: The book is written in Finnish, you should be familiar with the Finnish language!)
How to win:
Just answer the following two questions, post your answer in a comment under this blog post and you will automatically enter the prize draw!
- Why does Wilma-Emilia Kuosa thinks, that it is important to give also the people a voice, who stand behind the alcoholic?
- Do you think alcohol abuse is still a relevant topic in modern (Finnish) society?
We wish you good luck!
Inken and Wilma-Emilia Kuosa
*This blog post is a cooperation with jazz dance artist Wilma-Emilia Kuosa, who provided one of her poetry books “The Anatomy of Titanium Heart” (Titaanisydämen anatomia) for this prize competition.
Applicable Law for this prize competition is the law of the Federal Republic of Germany. If individual conditions of participation and/or competition guidelines be or will have become invalid, the validity of the remaining guidelines will remain unaffected.
Terms of participation
The competition is open to any person aged 18 years or older, who is primarily resident of the Federal Republic of Germany, another country of the European Union. 7The participation in the competition is only possible online via this blog post at www.finntastic.de. The participation is free of charge. The participants will not incur any expenses (not either for packaging and postage)! All lottery prizes due to the fact that they are not high-priced, will be send in general uninsured.
Each person may only enter the competition once. Multiple participations e.g. with different name profiles or e-mail addresses are not permitted and will automatically lead to an exclusion from the competition, in case it becomes obvious.
To participate in this raffle, the participants must answer the two following questions and have to post their answer in a comment under the blogpost:
- Why does Wilma-Emilia Kuosa thinks, that it is important to give also the people a voice, who stand behind the alcoholic?
- Do you think alcohol abuse is still a relevant topic in modern (Finnish) society?
Among all participants of the “The Anatomy of a Titanium Heart” prize draw we raffle one poetry book “Titaanisydämen anatomia” from Wilma-Emilia Kuosa. Material prizes are not paid out in cash and are excluded from exchange. Winnings cannot be transferred to third parties. There is no warranty or guarantee claim on the prize. Legal recourse is excluded.
The competition runs from February 23rd 2020 until March 23rd 2020 exclusively on www.finntastic.de. The closing date for a participation is March 23rd 2020 at 11:59 p.m..Subsequent solutions and comments, which will be send after this date, cannot be considered for this prize competition.
The determining of the eligibility of the participation as well as the prize draw will take place on March 25th 2020. The prices (see section: prize/profit), provided by Wilma-Emilia Kuosa will be raffled among all participants, who fulfill the terms of participation. The winner will be selected at random. The winner will be notified by email.
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