Reading Emily Dickinson in Icelandic by Eva Heisler is published by Kore Press and contains a collection of prose by a poet exploring the world and translations of Iceland. This is the kind of book in which you will want to find a quiet or natural setting in which to indulge fully in the nuances of the landscape, language, and characters that Ms. Heisler reveals throughout the pages. I found the work to be beautiful, savory, and best consumed slowly so your mind can absorb fully the weight of her words. Below I am happy to share a few samples:
That first winter in Iceland I didn’t mind the wind. Stillness itself was winged. The wind wrapped me in an elsewhere—else the traffic of scholars and accountants. But this year, my heart flaps like a shutter against the side of a barn. This year, the wind no longer sounds like itself. I wake in the night and mistake the sound of the wind for the roar of the snow plow in Syracuse; the squeal of tires spinning in Columbus; the hoot of a barn owl in Boyds; the whistle of a former lover’s kettle. “Don’t forget what it was like before.” Lying in bed, I tell myself this. The sound of wind engulfs me like the roar of an airplane passenger. “Don’t forget.” Remember the bottoms of your feet slippery with perspiration, and a jingle at every turn.
I feel like the poet is sharing her nostalgia of her experiences at home in America and is comparing them in her mind to her current experiences in Iceland. Her travels have brought her to different places and they all have a place etched in her heart and she is trying to remember each of those places while the winds of Iceland make their own mark. Lovely.
Something to Finish
Steinunn’s mother takes me to the flea market at the harbor. She shuffles among mugs in the shape of soccer balls; earrings made of feathers; Judy Blume in Icelandic; Bath Boutique Barbie; Working Woman Barbie; Barbie with Baby Keiko the Whale; Barbie Sassy Pony; and “Fizz Balls” advertised as “the latest in home aromatherapy.” Encountering these in the States, I would have folded into myself. But in Iceland, the kitsch doesn’t claim me. I finger the gaudy beads; they don’t take the shape of coffins—I am here and someplace else. Steinunn’s mother hands me a bundle of papers tied with boot strings. She purchased the rights to thirty-seven unfinished poems. It is a gift, she says. She pats the sheaf of papers that I press to my chest to keep them from blowing away. She says, It is something to finish.
I love that the flea market in Iceland feels different than in the States although it holds the same kinds of items. I also enjoy the mystery of thirty-seven unfinished poems being purchased with the idea of the purchaser “finishing” the poems. Can you imagine selling something unfinished at a flea market such as your own writings and allowing someone else, a complete stranger, to do so? That in itself is intriguing, just as much as it is interesting that Steinunn’s mother would purchase such a thing as a gift. It is a world of mysteries and I enjoy letting my mind wander the scene to figure out my own ending to the story that is unfinished here.
What I Remember
What I remember is neither the words nor the light in the kitchen but the press of a hand against my forehead. What I remember is not the color of eyes but what it felt like to be seen. What I remember is not the overstuffed luggage but the door, and you leaning against it. What I remember is not computing sums in the margins of my notebook, but three words and a grove of birch that I mistook for a herd of ghost horses. What I remember is not the new wardrobe but a fling of red and white.
Isn’t this the essence of memory? The feelings and colors that made a deep impression on us during our experience in a new place? I love the image of the grove of birch mistaken for ghost horses, as well as the wardrobe being a “fling of red and white.” It invites the reader to open up their own imagination and create their own memorable experience from the poet’s.
I would love to visit Iceland and see the sights and meet the people that Eva Heisler reveals in her collection Reading Emily Dickinson in Icelandic. If you enjoyed this brief sample as much as I do, you may purchase a copy for yourself for $15.95 at:
Thanks always for reading, please drop by again soon...