On a sunny Friday afternoon I sat down at Austurvöllur waiting for one of the founding members of the group Nýhil (pronounced nee-hil). I noticed the group last September on account of the massive amount of underground work published and the monthly poetry nights at Grand Rock Bar. I was confused about the name, since it clearly indicates Nihilism but has a troubling spelling error, which could not just be a mistake.
After a short while Haukur Már Hauksson came and sat down with me and told me the facts about the group that has in under a year added an essential flavour to the poetry scene.
Nýhil is a group of young artists and poets who started this art society after Eiríkur Nordal published a book of poetry in the autumn of 2002. He and Haukur Már were living in Berlin, Germany at the time and were bursting with creativity like often happens to Icelanders while living abroad (probably coming from the surge of increased possibilities when realising that you are not on a far away island). Instead of forming the mandatory “society-of-Icelanders-having-a-home-away-from-home” they rented a small venue with a DJ and had their friends come over, drink heavily and read each others poems, both in Icelandic and German.
At the same time in Iceland other friends started doing the same thing every month. The nights here in Iceland were a bit different from the ones in Germany because Icelanders tend to let everything go completely, while living in a foreign country so when they were drinking and rioting on booze and poetry, we were just having serious poetry nights with silence and applause in the right places.
Nihilism and the Icelandic word for “new” (nýtt… hence the “ý”) make the name Nýhil. Haukur Már told me that they decided on this name because they had the goal of following the theories of Nihilism to some extent. To destroy everything that could possibly be destroyed. If they didn’t succeed then they could at least say that were doing something new. Although these kinds of art societies have been formed before around the world they were doing it in a different style; a less serious approach compared to similar poetry-bashes.
In the interview, Haukur Már admitted that at present, they have become more like Post-Modernists, questioning all borders and barriers between styles, tradition, language and nationalities. One of those borders would be between the wanna-be bohemian Reykjavík lifestyle and the bread-earning everyday lifestyle in the countryside. The idea of poetry only happening in the city will be attacked with poetry when six or seven Nýhil members will go on a bus and tour the country, rock and roll style.
It has been a popular activity amongst some Icelandic cover bands, to tour the country and gain recognition by playing at fish factory dances. These bands are generally frowned upon by those who write poetry and “Poetry-Parties” on tour, can be understood as a mix between the high art and low art if there is such distinction.
This is what Nýhil is doing right now. They will tour about 6-7 places in two separate trips. Although the readings will mainly be in Icelandic it can be enjoyable for everyone since they have a DJ to go with the verses and they urge everybody to do some massive drinking.