This translation of Kristín Svava Tómasdóttir’s 2015 poetry collection was nominated for the PEN America Translation Prize in 2018 and is presented here in bilingual format.
Stormwarning offers a very different image of the Icelandic winter than the one presented in sweaters-and-cocoa touting adverts for the country’s winter tourism season. Here, seasonal affective disorder reigns and the northern lights are nowhere to be seen. The poems’ speakers find themselves in surroundings that will be familiar to most Icelanders: confined to their homes, forced to keep their own company while waiting out the storm. They revel in their melancholy and loneliness with acute self-awareness, addressing the humdrum of the everyday while darkness presses against their windows.
Even so, the tone is light, ironic and funny, as if the speakers can’t quite manage to keep from smirking while listing their own miseries with theatricality and verve. In fact, you might say that Kristín Svava’s poetry offers a perfect balance: It is funny without being silly, sarcastic without being bitter and serious without taking itself too seriously.