Poet and author Gerður Kristný has called Drápa her contribution to Nordic Noir, this despite the book being a novel-in-verse written written in a lyrical style that doffs its hat to the “drápa” poetic form, which was commonly used by the Viking Age Skaldic poets.
This slim volume relates the tale of a young woman who falls through society’s cracks and is finally murdered by her violent husband. It is fitting that the poem’s title contains a dual meaning, referring both to the poetic form and the Icelandic word “dráp” (killing). The picture that this long-form poem draws of Reykjavík is a dark and cold one, where women can easily fall prey to those who pretend to be their protectors. A sequel in theme if not in setting to Gerður’s former verse novel Bloodhoof, the book originates in her previous career as an investigative journalist, where she would regularly travel to Iceland’s prisons to interview violent offenders and murderers to gain an insight into what it is that drives human beings to savagery.
Drápa is in fact a memorial poem of sorts for the murdered woman, and although Gerður has chosen the Dark One himself as narrator, to provide the reader with a voice well versed in the evil men do, the compassion and tenderness with which the poetry treats these fallen beings makes for a striking reading experience.