Published March 31, 2017
I’ve read that there’s a deep cultural history in Iceland for writing poems. Would you write me a poem about Iceland?
OK Poet Laureate,
I don’t know what you’ve heard but only cool young women and grumpy old fusspots compose poems in Iceland. I am neither. But I’ll write you a poem because whatever it’s my job to answer these letters.
She visits me but once a year
Bathes me in gold and melts my defences
Each winter I brood and quiver with fear
That this is the summer that she’ll forget that I’m here
But brief though her appearance may be,
She spends each summer’s moment with me,
Coaxes the blossoms that bloom from my moss
Dances on water, thaws my frost
When the earth turns its face and pulls her away
I call out to her and beg her to stay
But she has no more power than me
We are all victims of gravity
Well, that’s it. I hate myself now. Are you happy?
Winter is nearly over in Iceland but the cold I am weary of does not come from the earth. It comes from the people who live on this part of it. It may be tribal and in the blood but that makes it no less difficult to weather the storm. I’m not a native, I moved here on my own because I fell in love with this place. Did you hear the one about the Scandinavian man who loved his wife so much, he almost told her?
Socially Shell Shocked
Dear Socially Shell Shocked,
Loneliness is an epidemic in Iceland and unhelpfully I am obliged to tell you that though you feel alone, you aren’t.
It’s difficult, uprooting yourself and moving to a new country, building yourself up again, your life, your self belief while no one is looking and nobody cares.
Icelanders are a slow burn and prone to cliques but Icelanders also respect tenacity and grit.
Be true to yourself, not only because anything else is a waste of your time but also because eventually, it will draw the attention and admiration of people who actually want your company.
From your message I know who you are, when I’m next in Reykjavík, I’ll mail you, we’ll get coffee.
I want one of you wisdom pills! 🙂
I and friends would like to be in reykjavik for christmas, have you got suggestions?
what could we do?
thanx a lot!
Buy each other books. Then stay inside your hotel rooms and read the books while working your way through a tin of Quality Street or a box of Nói Síríus chocolates. It’s what all the other Icelanders are doing at Christmas. Anything to get out of making conversation or having to eat while looking one another in the eye.
Do you want to ask Nanna a question? Go ahead, but continue at your peril. Shoot her an email on nanna(at)grapevine.is or tweet her using @NannaArnadottir