Published May 23, 2016
Gerður Kristný Guðjónsdóttir, usually known more simply as Gerður Kristný, is one of Iceland’s most notable poets, well-known both at home and abroad. She represented Iceland at the Poetry Olympics in London in 2012 and was selected as writer-in-residence at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.
Although she has authored nineteen books of poetry, fiction, and children’s writing, she is perhaps best known as a poet due to her 2010 book ‘Blóðhófnir’. It won the Icelandic Literary Prize, was nominated for the Nordic Literature Prize, and was published in English as ‘Bloodhoof’ in 2012 by Old Norse scholar and Icelandic translator Rory McTurk. If only one poet was being included as a major part in the Reykjavík Arts Festival, it’s no surprise that it should be her.
The giantess speaks
Umbra Ensemble will debut a performance adapted from ‘Bloodhoof’ at the Reykjavík Arts Festival, with music composed by Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir and movement choreographed by Saga Sigurðardóttir. The poem is a reevaluation of an Old Norse poem from the Edda, in which the giantess (and author’s namesake) Gerður is abducted and forced to marry the god Freyr. The original poem, “Skírnismál,” is framed around the journey of the servant who fetches the woman, while this contemporary retelling is from Gerður’s perspective.
Because the stanzas in the original Eddic poems are divided into speaking parts between the characters, some medieval scholars believe they were originally performed dramatically rather than simply read aloud. This creates an interesting precedent for this new staging. In one sense, it will be the newest edition in a sequence of creative reinterpretations of the original poem, but in another sense it will be closer to its original form than the preserved “Skírnismál” itself.
If you’d like your kids to have a shot at the Poetry Olympics or the Iowa Writers Workshop, you’re in luck. Gerður will be conducting two creative writing workshops for kids ages 9-14, centered around ‘The Weather Diaries’, the current art installation by Cooper & Gorfer at the Nordic House. The exhibit itself is also a reimagining of the shared culture and geography of Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroes. This hypnotic and fantastical atmosphere, and its emphasis on imaginative takes on people and places, is the creative jumping-off point for the children’s writing.
Register your little ones for the workshops on the 28th and 29th of May on the Nordic House’s website. And don’t miss the only performance of ‘Bloodhoof’ on June 1st—tickets are still available through Midi.is.