From Iceland — Einar Ben's Birthday To Be "Day Of The Poem"

Einar Ben’s Birthday To Be “Day Of The Poem”

Published November 1, 2014

Subsequent Debates See Radio Host Challenge Publisher To A Duel

Subsequent Debates See Radio Host Challenge Publisher To A Duel

Illugi Gunnarsson, Minister of education, science and culture, has proposed that October 31 will from now on be designated as the “Day of the Poem”. October 31 is, as the Minister reasoned, the birthday of 19th century industrial entrepreneur and romantic poet Einar Benediktsson, known as Einar Ben.

The Minister made the proposal in an article published in Morgunblaðið, and further explained: “Einar knew better than anyone that culture and entrepreneurship go hand in hand and can support each other. He was a nature lover as his poems demonstrate, but he also wanted to harvest the powers in nature to increase prosperity. He realized, however, better than anyone, the value that nature as such can have for us Icelanders.”

Illugi suggested various ways to celebrate the Day of the Poem, such as a poetry competition among teenagers or awarding a young poet.

Duel at Reykjavik airport

Members of the literary community have reacted in various ways. Claims were heard that by the designation, the Minister intends to counter or even avenge for the “Day of Icelandic Nature”, recently established on the birthday of environmentalist and entertainer Ómar Ragnarsson.

Publisher Kristján B. Jónasson pointed out that the demand for Einar’s poetry is so meager, that even if all his works fell out of copyright in 2011, they remain out of print and that so far no one has shown any interest in publishing them. Author and radio host Eiríkur Guðmundsson countered Kristján’s claims by stating that: “Einar Benediktsson was a poet. End of story.” Literary scholar and Professor Emeritus Helga Kress added that Einar was a good poet, and expressed surprise at Kristján’s market-oriented emphasis.

As the publisher insisted that a poet’s value should be measured by his sales, the debates intensified up to the point that Eiríkur challenged Kristján to a duel, to be fought with clubs on Reykjavik airport, with the moon and a suitcase on wheels for witnesses.

Probably did not take place

As no such event has since been reported, the duel supposedly was not actualized. Publisher Jóhann Páll Valdimarsson then announced his intention to swiftly publish Einar Ben’s poetry collection.

The above debates took place in a Facebook-thread. As of yet, there has not been any official response to the Minister’s proposal. Supposedly, then, regardless of the heated debates, October 31 will henceforth be the Day of the Poem.

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