Flash Frontier

Feature editor: Welcome, Mikaela Nyman!

Interviews and Features

This year, Mikaela Nyman joins our team of editors. We sat down to talk briefly with her as a way of introducing her to our readers and find out a bit about her exciting projects in the works.

Flash Frontier: You are a writer of many forms, from novel to poetry to essay to short fiction. Can you share with our readers some thoughts on your own approach to the different forms? What mindset you might be in for a novel, for example, as opposed to poetry or short-form writing?

Mikaela Nyman: I write fiction, non-fiction and poetry. With a novel, you’re in for the long haul, you have to buckle down and be prepared to write and rewrite. You will have to pull out the weeds and lop off the suckers and beautiful tender tendrils that actually don’t serve any purpose. The same applies to short prose to an even greater degree: every word counts, there’s no space for dross – every word has to earn its keep and serve the story. With flash fiction and microfiction compression is essential. I don’t mind editing and I can be very ruthless. I’m happy to cull lengthy passages or whole chapters, if that’s what the story demands. I’ve even ripped out entire narrative arcs, although it caused some severe structural disturbance. And that’s the key: what does the story demand? With a novel, there’s just so much material, and sometimes there’s too much research that weighs it down. But when a lot of time (sometimes years!) has been invested in that research, then the editing part becomes increasingly difficult. I write in English and in Swedish; sometimes I translate other writers and poets. Currently, I’m translating my own work. For me, poetry is just another language. Some things, like grief, cannot be expressed in any other way than through lyrical exploration. At other times, I start exploring in one form and then switch to another; fiction becomes poetry and vice versa. What remains unsaid is as important as what’s written on the page.

FF: We congratulate you on being the 2024 Robert Burns Fellow. Tell us what is most striking about being in Dunedin, and what inspires you there!

MN: I’m so grateful for the Robert Burns Fellowship and feel truly blessed to be given this opportunity to write without worrying where the next pay cheque will be coming from. It’s been an inspiring start to the year, even though it means separation from my family back in Taranaki. And I’ve felt incredibly welcomed in Dunedin. There’s such a vibrant creative community and arts scene here. Looking forward to being part of it and contributing in whichever way I can. The city, the sea and the scenery give me a jolt of joy every morning when I greet the horizon. I don’t know why I thought Otago was mostly high-country, tussock and mountains. I feel silly for not realising how coastal Dunedin is.


FF: You are working on some exciting translation projects. Can you share a bit about your recent awards news, and also your current work? Perhaps a sample poem from your collection, in Swedish and English?

MN: It has been a strange and exhilarating past six months since my second poetry collection För att ta sig ur en rivström måste man röra sig i sidled (in English: ‘To get out of a rip tide, you have to move sideways’) was published by Ellips last year. In February, I received a major literary award from the Swedish Literary Society (SLS) in Finland for my poetry collection that connects Taranaki and my native Åland Islands and now it is nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize 2024. These are not awards you can enter yourself – it comes as a nice surprise, and it’s quite overwhelming, to get that kind of response. I feel very honoured. Some of the poems were written in English to begin with, others started out in Swedish. Some have undergone a translation metamorphosis and then some. I think Nabokov translated his own work back and forth several times. It can be both a bonus and a curse. While it slows the process down, it can also result in some truly wonderful and unexpected ideas, words and phrasing. But this year I hope to be able to buckle down and write at least part of my next novel.


FF: Flash fiction is of course the smallest prose form. You are accustomed to writing short, and you also co-judged last year’s Micro Madness competition. What do you find most challenging, and most appealing, about compressing prose into such a small space?

MN: Thank you for inviting me to join the Flash Frontier editorial team! I see this as a great opportunity to read and write more flash fiction. Prose poetry and micro fiction are close cousins, sp that’s familiar territory. My stories are often sparked by a particular scene (with my novel Sado it was the moment of stepping out into a world devastated by a super cyclone and trying to take in all the destruction) and from that impulse the story grows. Flash fiction offers a great opportunity to tighten up my prose and perhaps publish more individual short stories along the way. I’m looking forward to being part of the team!

FF: Finally, can you share a small something, related to the theme ‘quiet’ for this month’s issue?

Poorman zen

On days when shadows sit tight equilibrium hides

in the heaviness of sun-warm grapefruit

weighing like engorged breasts in cupped hands

filled with goodness

smooth skin        pores

slightly coarser on the shadow side

branch bent to breaking point still

breathing            holding       

– Mikaela Nyman
in a liminal gathering (2023), edited by Iona Winter


Mikaela NymanMikaela Nyman is an award-winning poet, fiction and non-fiction writer who writes in English and Swedish. Born in the autonomous, demilitarised Åland Islands in Finland, she now lives in Taranaki. Collaboration across borders of language, ethnicity, geography and time excites her. She was awarded a major literature prize by the Swedish Literature Society of Finland in 2024 for her second poetry collection För att ta sig ur en rivström måste man röra sig i sidled (2023), and was also nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize 2024. See more about her on our Editor page.

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