by Kim Pederson…….
So I was thinking about some reasons to move to Iceland today. One, Donald Trump would not be president there. Two, they have polar bears. Oh wait. They eat people. Scratch that one. Two, they have Jacuzzis everywhere (better known as hot springs). Three, they have Norwegian roots, as do I. Four, they have the Icelandic Phallological Museum (better known as the Penis Museum). Five, according to the island’s official website, “thanks to the Gulf Stream, Iceland enjoys a cool, temperate maritime climate, with refreshing summers and surprisingly mild temperatures in winter.” (One wonders what “surprisingly mild” translates to in a country a hop-skip-jump away from the North Pole.) Six, Jethro Tull is giving a Christmas concert there–no, that’s already happened. Shoot!
All of those reasons are or would have been tempting and persuasive I admit, especially the Penis Museum. But the real reason I would consider moving to this northern frigion (region of frigidity) is this: “Iceland, it seems, is full of hidden poets.” At least it is according to NY Times writer Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura (KFT). In her article “On an Island Named for Ice, the Poets Are Just Getting Warmed up,” KFT notes that a great many of Iceland’s 330,000 human inhabitants “dabble in verse.” In fact, it’s a national pastime there, one that developed from earlier times when social gatherings involved the Icelandic version of a poetry slam (or, more correctly, a ljóð skellur).
Poets (or “poeticians”) in Iceland may have evolved, KFT thinks, due to “the cold oceanic climate and long winter nights.” That goes for reading it, too. Poetry books are the third largest seller in Iceland after fiction and art books. One professor offered a slightly different explanation for poetry popularity: “People usually get bored, and they try to humor each other. One of those ways is poetry.”
The favorite form of these versemusements (verse intended to amuse) on the island is called the “ferskeytla” or “ferskeytt” (four corners), which comprises four lines divided into two parts. Here’s an example by Jonas Hallgrimsson:
Hillsides raked by raging frost
ravens eating offal
buntings giving up the ghost
God, this spring is awful!
On second thought…maybe I won’t move to Iceland.
* Norsemen landing in Iceland – a 19th-century depiction by Oscar Wergeland. Public Domain.
Visit Kim Pederson’s blog RatBlurt: Mostly Random Short-Attention-Span Musings.