Monday, April 13, 2009

Iceland and Denmark

From the land of Bjork, Vikings, Jelling Stones, and Brennivin— poems from ICELAND and DENMARK!

I know we are not going to be spending a great deal of time on these countries in class, but in my explorations of the Northern European lands, I found a thing or two you might find exciting enough to dust off that Sugarcubes cd or your favorite Hans Christian Anderson tale.

Icelandic and Danish Language:

Medieval Icelandic and Danish are two dialectic stems of Old Norse (Northern Germanic), East and West. Old Scandinavian poetry was very meter-heavy (Beowulf?). Icelandic, particularly, has about 10 different metric-forms that I cannot begin to pronounce, yet have some interesting word play. Here’s one. Let’s break it down, Wiki-style:

Very close to Beowulf. Literally translates to "way of ancient words". This example is from the Waking of Angantyr:
Vaki, Angantýr! vekr þik Hervǫr,
eingadóttir ykkr Tófu!
Selðu ór haugi hvassan mæki
þann's Svafrlama slógu dvergar.

(Awaken, Angantyr! It is Hervor who awakens you, your only daughter by Tófa! Yield up from your grave the mighty sword that the dwarves forged for Svafrlami.")

Fornyrðislag has two lifts per half line, with two or three (sometimes one) unstressed syllables. At least two lifts, usually three, alliterate, always including the main stave (the first lift of the second half-line). It had a variant form called málaháttr ("speech meter"), which adds an unstressed syllable to each half-line, making six to eight (sometimes up to ten) unstressed syllables per line.

Iceland Poetry, Nowadays:

Today, most young poets like the ones we find in out anthology, tend to lean toward free verse, prose poetry, like "The Divorce Children" on page 262. Most of the poets I’m running across in my Google’n tend to “sporadically” write in more traditional Norse/Scandinavian forms.

I found a great interview (in English) with the first Icelandic poet in the anthology, Elísabet Jökulsdottír, discussing her work Football Stories. The interview starts with her explaining how she grew up loving football/soccer.

I loved this quote:
“Many people are very surprised… I forget myself when I watch it (football), and I sometimes have an argument with people because maybe if they are too intellectual, they are surprised, ‘why do you like football?’… to watch something I don’t fully understand, like the ocean. I don’t understand the ocean but I like to watch it. It gives me a lot.”

It’s a fantastic interview. Here’s where to check it out:

The Icelandic poems seem to rely heavily on physical landscapes and weather to build metaphor. Also I see a theme of emotional connection, or the lack of connection, rather. Person-to-person understanding and the deadening of ego is something that is confronted in our poems. Jökulsdottír’s attitude struck me as refreshing and honest. She acknowledges that which she doesn’t understand without taking the “I’m just a little human in a big world” track, without being self-effacing, either. This seems to be a common trait in the Iceland poets.
Also check out Linda Vilhjálmsdóttir. She’s not in the anthology, but seems to be quite popular.

Denmark Poetry, Nowadays:

Did you know, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index, that Denmark was voted the Least Politically Corrupt Country in the World? Also, Copenhagen was voted the Most Livable City in the World in 2008? Oh yeah, and Denmark was also voted the “Happiest Place in the World” in some random survey? …sheesh Disneyland… AND the 2008 Global Peace Index survey ranks Denmark as the second most peaceful country in the world, after Iceland! (Wiki stats).

I don’t know how to handle this coming off of the Eastern Block countries.

The Danish poems are occupying themselves with other things, such as: art, dreams, and relationships (like Iceland). The subjects seem to be more exploratory, meditative. In the Tafdrup poem, “One of many or each single one—that makes all the difference,” seems to be echoing a common interest in the Icelandic poems, the interconnectedness of individuals.

I noticed the word “unpretentious” came up more than once in book reviews of Danish poets.

The Danish poets, especially in the past 2 or 3 years, seem to be interested in opening a dialogue with other art/literary forms, (see “In the Californian Back Yard” p. 267). Also, check out
contemporary Danish poets and how they sample different forms— Simon Grotrian (religion), Thomas Boberg (epistolary works), and Niels Lyngso (memoir-autobio). Allusions to other, familiar art forms seem to serve the reader as a vehicle for universal comprehension, putting aside experimentation.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.