A Grapevine service announcement Be patient: That eruption is expected to last until 2015
Culture
Art
Gerður Kristný

Gerður Kristný

Words by

Published August 16, 2012

It is not only the handballers and the swimmers who are repping RVK in London this year. The British capital also played host to some of the world’s finest poets earlier this summer. Reykjavík’s own Gerður Kristný was selected to stand among writers from 204 Olympic nations and represent Iceland in an international ‘Poetry Parnassus.’
Part of the UK’s 2012 Cultural Olympiad and initiated by leading British light Simon Armitage, this was one of the largest poetry events the world has ever witnessed. Sharing centre stage with literary luminaries such as Saint Lucia’s Derek Walcott and Australian poet John Kinsella, Gerður read from her collection ‘Bloodhoof,’ published in English for the first time this year.
The vast event was opened with a ‘Rain of Poems’ over London’s South Bank, as Chilean arts collective Casagrande dropped 100,000 poems printed on bookmarks from a helicopter above the twilit River Thames.
Gerður was at the heart of the action at the opening set-piece, where people jostled good-naturedly to catch one of the falling works of art, gliding and glittering through the sky like ticker-tape, even bartering for rare Latin American verses or perfectly-formed Japanese haikus.
“I tend to become a little combative with anything like this,” admits Gerður, as she remembers witnessing an elderly man eagerly gazing heavenward hoping to catch his own literary memento. “I stood with him and made sure nobody else came near so that he would get something. I can be quite aggressive. I think it’s because at school I was never very good at sports.”
This was just the beginning of six days of poetic performance and enjoyment, with talks and shows that spoke to the universal themes familiar to so many of those nations represented: identity, conflict, freedom.
More like a big football match
The festival atmosphere however was what constantly prevailed. “This doesn’t normally happen in poetry,” she laughs. “Poets have to look serious and earnest. This was more like a big football match!”
Gerður first met the festival curator Simon Armitage whilst travelling through Asia some years ago. Armitage is one of the UK’s best-loved contemporary poets. His latest works take the English folkloric tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and bring them to a modern readership.
One of his earliest books was ‘Moon Country,’ published in 1996 with fellow British writer Glyn Maxwell following their voyage to Iceland, in turn evoking the travels of W.H. Auden and Louis MacNeice to the country in the 1930s, which inspired their collection ‘Letters From Iceland.’
For Gerður, the Parnassus was “a crash course in international poetry,” yet she is hardly a beginner in the global poetic kingdom. She flicks through her copy of ‘The World Record,’ the official anthology of voices from the Poetry Parnassus (in which she herself is of course published), and recalls her favourite poems, some of which were written her old friends.
Globetrotting with her poetry
As part of the festival, Gerður travelled across the Irish Sea to Derry in Northern Ireland to take part in a ‘Poetry Deathmatch,’ competing against poets from Tuvalu, Grenada, and Oman among others in round after round as poets were voted out until a winner was declared. “It was more like the Eurovision Song Contest,” she jokes.
Such globetrotting is by now second nature to her. Gerður has read her own work across the world, from Scandinavia to Asia. Her works appear in anthologies published far and wide. She shows me a Dutch anthology of poems about women, in which her own on Anne Frank is printed, alongside names such as Lorca, Nabokov, and Poe. She reads out the names still struck with awe, only then to conclude with a poet’s bathos and her own distinctive charming self-deprecating humour: “They must be turning in their graves!”
But her diary is filling up fast. Her next collection of poetry, ‘Strandir,’ inspired by the remote north-western corner of Iceland, is set to be released later this year. Soon she’ll be headed to Turku, the Finnish festival, as well as touring cities in the UK, and next year heading rather further afield all the way to Nicaragua.
And to hear poetry from every corner of the earth—not least her own deeply Icelandic work—remains, she says, a true thrill. “In Iceland,” she admits in stark contrast, “people talk of poetry like it’s a hospital patient in poor health.”
Is it? Who in Iceland writes poetry today? “I do! And that’s all I care about,” she concludes with her teasing smile. But wherever she goes, she introduces yet more new followers to Iceland’s literary heritage.



Culture
Art
<?php the_title(); ?>

Dancers In The Dark

by

A funky bassline is bumping out of KEX Hostel as I walk up to its patio. As I pass the window, I hear the horns and lyrics of Janelle Monáe’s “Tightrope.” I picture her smooth moves in the song’s music video and I already feel like dancing. Once inside, I duck quickly through the door into Gym & Tonic, trying to let in as little light as possible in the process. No lights, no lycra, no lies: it is pitch black when the door closes. (I can’t actually confirm that there is no spandex, but I certainly can’t see any.)

Culture
Art
<?php the_title(); ?>

Breathing Life Into Arts Education

by

With university becoming more expensive in many parts of the world, mainstream education tends to lean towards the former, feeding the idea that higher qualifications should serve first and foremost as a path to economic security rather than to an enlightened viewpoint. The “university experience” has come to mean both a kind of holiday camp for young adults to begin establishing themselves away from their family, and a programme of economically motivated and vocational-minded learning. Education, cast in such stark terms, can be seen as an investment to be weighed against future earning potential. Of course, not everyone sees it

Culture
Art
<?php the_title(); ?>

Pop Vomit

by

On the wall of a dark room in Reykjavík’s Hafnarhusið art museum, a stream of brightly coloured icons is fizzing out of the ground. Triggered by the tiniest sound, they erupt onto the wall at every footstep or word, tumbling into a huge pile and bobbing around like Pop Art Cheerios. Some are familiar, some are less so–classic cartoon characters wobble around alongside unfamiliar product logos and Chinese lettering. “This idea originated in Singapore,” says Mojoko, a.k.a. Steve Lawler, who works with programmer Shang Liang on the project. “It was designed for a children’s exhibition at a museum. We were

Culture
Art
<?php the_title(); ?>

Banksy In Iceland?

by

Banksy may have been to Iceland. A while ago. And he may have left a mark or two. This has not been verified, but whoever did the stencil accompanying this article would in any case surely acknowledge being under the distinguished anonymous British street-artist’s influence. We will leave it up to readers to figure out exactly where this is. The photo was taken by Claudia Regina, in 2012. Apparently, one Graham Lloyd also spotted the piece in 2012. Locals seem to have discovered the artwork more recently, as images shot this summer have started circulating on social media. Also in

Culture
Art
<?php the_title(); ?>

Urbanization On Paper: A European Narrative

by

Spark Design Space has a clean minimalist facade, a welcome place to rest your eyes next to the garishly painted corrugated tin front of its neighbour Kiki. The large glass windows show the dozens of posters tiled on the back walls of the building, each in a different colour and arranged to make a gradient from purple to red to orange to green in more subtle counterpoint to Kiki’s unsubtle rainbow. The posters are Paolo Gianfrancesco’s print show `Urban Shape,’ up now until September 26. Each one is a map of a different European capital, derived from the open source

Culture
Art
<?php the_title(); ?>

Tying A Ribbon On Biophilia

by

Sitting upstairs at Iðnó, pouring out a cup of coffee in a fetching fluorescent yellow ensemble, an animated Björk is expressing how pleased and surprised she is that people still want to talk about her work. “I spoke to someone earlier who had been online researching all the Biophilia set lists and comparing them,” smiles Björk, “and I was like, ‘respect!’ It’s crazy that people actually still care, or can be bothered.” She hasn’t done a press day for three years. The last time seems a long time ago, back when Biophilia was being unveiled to the world—the album app

Show Me More!