Storm on the Island

I’ve got a lot of catch up to do—we’ve had visitors, have taken another short trip, and I’ve had midterms, and grammar breakthroughs, and all sorts of exciting things. But for now, I’m going to go just slightly off topic to share a poem which, while not Icelandic, certainly made me think about Iceland when I read it.

I’ve recently read, and re-read and had quite a little love affair with Death of a Naturalist, the first poetry collection by Irish Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney. There are many, many wonderful poems in this collection, but his poem “Storm on the Island,” works quite well in an Icelandic landscape, so I thought I’d share it:

Storm on the Island

We are prepared: we build our houses squat,
Sink walls in rock and roof them with good slate.
The wizened earth had never troubled us
With hay, so as you can see, there are no stacks
Or stooks that can be lost. Nor are there trees
Which might prove company when it blows full
Blast: you know what I mean – leaves and branches
Can raise a chorus in a gale
So that you can listen to the thing you fear
Forgetting that it pummels your house too.
But there are no trees, no natural shelter.
You might think that the sea is company,
Exploding comfortably down on the cliffs
But no: when it begins, the flung spray hits
The very windows, spits like a tame cat
Turned savage. We just sit tight while wind dives
And strafes invisibly. Space is a salvo.
We are bombarded by the empty air.
Strange, it is a huge nothing that we fear.

If you’d like to listen to the poem being read (recommended) you can find a reading of it via the BBC website, here.

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