In Underfoot, Holmberg asks what prevents an industrialized nation-state from achieving its desire to extract maximum resources.
His answers are people and their connection with land.
Writing in Northern Sámi, he creates a world of symbols to enact the challenges of maintaining an immediate relationship with land in the midst of ongoing settler colonialism and displacement.
Specifically, Underfoot summons readers to return to their feet because that’s where we’re constantly in contact with the ground. The book’s antagonist, the shoemaker, markets comfort and warmth. The moment that we put on the shoe is when we offer ourselves to capitalism and mechanization. That’s when we replace our values of sustainability and communality with egoism and individuality.
The poetry is interwoven with illustrations by Sami artist, Inga-Wiktoria Pave.
Niillas Holmberg is a Sámi poet, novelist, scriptwriter and musician. He has published a novel and six books of poetry. His works have been translated into several languages. His first feature film Je’vIDA, co-written with Katja Gauriloff, is expected to air in 2023. In the field of music he works as a vocalist, composer and lyricist. His new band Guorga published its debut album in 2021. Niillas has won awards such as the Kirsi Kunnas Poetry Awards as well as being nominated for the Nordic Literature Prize twice. His debut novel Halla Helle is a Runeberg Prize nominee in Finland. Niillas is known as an upfront spokesman for Sámi and indigenous rights to self-determination. He has been involved in several movements against extractivism in Sámi areas. He lives in Ohcejohka, Sámiland.
Inga-Wiktoria Påve is based in Northern Sweden in the municipality of Kiruna. She was brought up in a traditional Sami reindeer herding community and it is from her heritage that she takes her inspiration. Påve is a visual artist and designer whose work expresses the colors and shapes of Sami culture.
Jennifer Kwon Dobbs is the author of two poetry collections and two chapbooks, most recently Interrogation Room–mentioned in The New York Times and a recipient of the Asian American Studies Book Award in Creative Writing. She is poetry editor at AGNI and professor of English at St. Olaf College.
Johanna Domokos is a comparative literary scholar of indigenous cultures and minority literatures with expertise in Scandinavian and Central European areas (esp. Sámi, Finnisch, German and Hungarian). She is author of four monographs related to Sámi literature, edited more than twenty books.
“After a long hibernation, the voice of the Northern lands emerges through the poems of Niillas Holberg. In the quest for answers and solutions in these troubled times, we are called to listen to stories from the Earth’s northern hemisphere. In these poems we are invited to know birches, terns, wolves and rivers as kin.
To feel the Earth again with our bare feet, bare hands and dive into the waters unfettered by the constraints of Modernity. The poems are simple, elegant, graceful, like the falling snow, clear cool water over stones in streams, birch leave rustling in the wind.” —Miguel Rivera, translator of In the Courtyard of the Moon
“Underfoot is an irresistibly elegant, approachable and a unique entity by its expression; one of best books of poetry in 2019. The book is a downright magnificent entity in any criteria. Holmberg’s poetic language and land are inseparably connected to each other.” —Turun Sanomat