Writer in Residence in Iceland

Great News! I made a successful application to the Gunnar Gunnarsson Institute. I’ll be living in Gunnarsson’s house in East Iceland from March 25-April 21, 2013, where I’ll work on a photo, visual poetry and textual essay. Gunnarsson and I share a history, one that quickly unravelled for him in 1940 but which I am still living out in Canada. Through extensions of my work with Old Norse in The Spoken World, a translation of the text that Gunnarsson read on his German tour, and my personal perspective, I’m going to show how Gunnarsson’s combinations of fiction, poetry and nonfiction were three generations ahead of their time. Besides, I fell in love with Iceland in two visits over the last three years. I get to go home.

Gunnarsson’s Farm House in Fljótsdalur

Architect, Fritz Höger (with a little Icelandic puckishness added in situ).

The Gunnarsson Institute is located at the head of the Fljótsdalur valley, on the river crossing that led to the historic trail south through the mountains. Here’s a photo overlooking the valley from the hills. The institute is at the foot of the mountain on the right. The pass to the south is in the middle of the image.

Because of its strategic location, the farm was once a cloister. This late Catholic institution is currently under excavation…

Typically for Iceland, it is constructed on an elvish site, presumably to integrate early Icelandic spiritual life as a prophecy leading towards the Catholic faith.

Elvish Rocks with a Natural Cross, Skriðuklaustri

The pattern was repeated within the cloister itself, with a cross and numerous magical runes scratched into a very elvish looking rock at the very deepest, darkest point of the interconnected halls…

What’s not to love? There are sacred rowan forests above Lake Lagarfljót to the west …

… and good memories …

… and water falling from the sky…

Gunnarsson pointed out that even the darkness of the sub-arctic winter is precious to an Icelander. I’m thrilled to be going outside of the summer’s eternal light, to ride that wave of the dark into the spring.

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7 thoughts on “Writer in Residence in Iceland

  1. This is brilliant – have been in love with Iceland from a distance and hope to make it there… They used to shut down TV for the summer… Sigor Ros with Arvo Part make the best of soundtracks for my Nature photography slideshows…. Will look forward to hearing more….

    • Michael Nyman, alternated with a Tsinuk Youth singing and drumming CD I picked up in Astoria made the sound track for a trip up the Columbia from Cape Disappointment to Robson, four years back, which gave me a book of poems originally called “The Salmon Shanties” and now called “North West”, which is coming out next year.

      • Unfamiliar with that music – will have to check it out – interesting the way we combine the arts into our experiences of the wild …

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