Nino Mick

Sweden

Nino Mick was born in Stockholm in 1990, grew up in Tidaholm and resides in Gothenburg. In 2013 they won the Swedish poetry slam nationals, and their first book Tjugofemtusen kilometer nervtrådar(“Twenty-five-thousand Kilometers of Nerve Fibers”) was published in 2018 by the publishing house Norstedts. Nino Mick has toured in churches with the show “Nino’s ark,” and under the alias Plutoniumflickan (“The Plutonium Girl”) they perform as a singer-songwriter, “obscene poet” and scientist; making YouTube-poetry, collage art, trees of papier-mâché, performances and polls. Mick has also been vice chairperson for the literature house in Gothenburg and works as a train conductor.


“Scenes flow together / public libraries and pride festivals / small town train stations / press photo and description max 50 words,” writes Nino Mick in their debut poetry collection Tjugofemtusen kilometer nervtrådar(“Twenty-five-thousand Kilometers of Nerve Fibers,” Norstedts, 2018). The short bio above exceeded the 500 characters it was supposed to have, and that despite the fact that I have this longer essay at my disposal to introduce Nino Mick as a poet. When I come across the quote about the scenes that flow together I realise that I hardly could present Mick any better than they have already done themselves in this poem.

The flowing together of the scenes has an equivalent in the title of the collection. Nerve fibers, also known as axons, are the body’s communication entities. The nerve fibers of the title intertwine the different themes of the book, and it could be regarded as a kind of bodily main distribution frame. Some of the main themes of Tjugofemtusen kilometer nervtrådar are, as the short quote above indicates: a gender survey at a Gender Identity Clinic, christianity, growing up, traveling by train and spoken word poetry vs. book poetry. 

The first poem of the book marks the starting point for the gender survey: “First visit. /// I'm here because I want to be left alone.” There are, however, other possible interpretations of this poem consisting of no more than these two lines, divided by a quite large empty space on the page. In its utmost literal interpretation it is here the writer first meets the reader(s). The purpose of the meeting is to be left alone, i.e. it is a wish of a non-meeting.

I am meeting Mick’s poetry this way, letting one poem reflect or lead to another, one theme another theme, in a similar way as nerve fibers transmit information, or information transfers from one person to the other through speech or text. That one of Mick’s greatest assetts is language is clear, but even this is paradoxically blurred:  “Have I completed a gender survey so I can cope with being a poet / or am I a poet in order to cope with the Gender Identity Clinic / so used to narrating myself / in exchange for fees and care.” If it is hard to create, recreate or correct oneself in life, literature offers this as its very core.

The reasoning continues in another poem: “I want to reside in the hard and permanent / so I construct a suite of poems and a man to live inside / I want to be pinned down securely / to be normalized and become part of the dictionary / assigned a home / to leave.” Here the longing for a language and a home is so strong that even the normative language seems to be an option and a goal, until the very last line where, similar to the first poem in the collection, the verb ‘lämna’ (‘leave’) appears and constitutes the very core of the poem. If you are not part of something you cannot leave it. The possibility and freedom to leave is one of the greatest privileges.

The visits of the transutredning form an inner frame of the collection, and when the fourth visit is cancelled it becomes obvious with which small means Mick plays as a poet; close to the first, the second and the third visits there have been dots, but here the finality of the punctuation mark is lacking and the poem is followed by two empty pages. The fourth visit takes place in front of the reader’s eyes, but only as a potentiality: “Fourth visit /// I cancel.” Mick’s poetry might look simple and direct at first glance, but the complexity it holds reveals itself little by little. 

When Tjugofemtusen kilometer nervtrådar was published in the beginning of 2018 many critics read it alongside the debut of poet Yolanda Aurora Bohm Ramirez, Ikon (‘Icon’, Brombergs, 2018,) as well as an ongoing debate in Swedish media about gender transitioning. Some critics made efforts to read and interpret the two poets’ works, but few restrained themselves from framing their reviews by the debate. Seldom the poems were allowed to speak for themselves. In a talk at Littfest 2018 about writing on trains Nino Mick quite exasperated exclaimed about the reception of Bohm Ramirez’ book that: “it is not even a trans-book!”

Both Mick and Bohm Ramirez having been acclaimed spoken word poets also affected the media on the books, but the ways these two poets have approached the book form could not be different. Whereas Bohm Ramirez’ Ikon in many ways slams spoken word features down in writing, Mick seems to have transformed their way of making poetry more thoroughly. When Mick writes of the publisher’s demand for a more “structured wholeness ” the work itself both fulfills and resists this demand. It is cleverly done.

The poem that starts with the book title line deals instead with how this “whole” is formed in poetry slam. Quotes such as “my life is three minutes long / they say perfect ten / I'm trying to boil / down to my essence / become a concentrate / of my own existence / then it's called politics” has an inherent critique of the slam scene, and I remind myself of the final words of a text Mick wrote for Versopolis in the spring of 2018, entitled “No One Hears When You Spell Wrong”:

Looking at our time, poetry slams popularity seems inevitable. Time itself catched up to the concept. Video-friendly, charismatic, a focus on identity-politics. The audience is craving authenticity, personal pain (inspirationally overcome at the end!), effective (and affective) dramaturgy. Moralism. Idealism. Individualism. Populism. Competition and rating in numbers. Like an analog social media. Some people would never have written poetry, if they hadn’t started because of slam – I’m one of them. My hope is that we will make more room for critical discussion about writing, and how large parts of this said-to-be counter-culture movement is actually right in the core of the culture. What would a counter-culture spoken word poem sound like today? Don’t know. But I bet we’ll see.

 

Mick’s debut book has been an important reminder to me about an urgent need of “more room for critical discussion about writing” and that even though slam poetry and book poetry work differently, the core and the means in both are the same – language. When the question “Where should I put the pain?” is posed in one particularly striking poem these different places are proposed: “In plastic bags / in a hash tag / in a poem / on Instagram / on a cross / in paragraphs / in a questionnaire / in PowerPoints.” I am very glad that Mick chose to put it in poetry.

 

Written by Helena Fagertun