I am happy to be working with the National Museum of Iceland Collection of Photographs and Prints on the English portions of a major book on the work of Spessi, the contemporary fine-art photographer, due out this March, 2021, on the occasion of his retrospective exhibition at the National Museum. To study Spessi’s photographs and follow his trajectory as an artist and social critic takes you from Kansas bikers’ living rooms to prison cells in Latvia to life in the elevators at the Iceland Airwaves festival to high-lonesome petrol stations in the snow.
I am also looking forward to Ósk Vilhjálmsdóttir’s forthcoming new book, for which I much enjoyed translating essays by artists and critics and travelling with this unique, free-minded artist-guide through wildernesses urban and wild.
Speaking of wild, some of my poems are forthcoming in Deep Wild – Writing from the Backcountry.
POEMS ACROSS OCEANS
Many thanks to Live Encounters for conveying four of my poems set in Iceland to the public. It was encouraging to be among many other poets who offer their work across oceans and landscapes. The poems may be viewed here: https://liveencounters.net/le-poetry-writing-2020/10-october-pw-2020/sarah-m-brownsberger-property-in-a-lava-field/
HELPING TO CARRY POEMS ACROSS OCEANS
I am grateful for recent opportunities to help convey poems by Sigurbjörg Þrastardóttir from Icelandic to English and on into music via the composition of Ingibjörg Ýr Skarphéðinsdóttir. Another poem by Sigurbjörg travelled via English to the 2020 Transpoesie festival in Brussels.
Meanwhile, Stefán Sigurðsson’s homage to Canadian jazz artist Lenny Breau is seeking to come back to Canada in English guise.
FANGELSIÐ – THE PRISON
Artist duo Berghall (Anna Hallin and Olga Bergmann) presents THE PRISON, a beautifully designed hardcover book on Berghall’s deeply-thought, moving artworks in the high security prison near Reykjavik. An introduction by Jón B. K. Ransu, an overview of Berghall’s work by Sigrún Alba Sigurðardóttir, and Sigrún Alba’s philosophical essay on the work accompany exquisite photographs that capture the life and flight of wild birds as surveilled, through art, from within prison walls.
The artists planted an arboretum at the prison entrance and installed elaborate bird hotels with a panopticon (surveillance system) wired to the prison library, so that inmates can monitor the free life in the budding trees on the heath outside. Berghall’s linear renderings of the heath birds’ flight patterns are carved into the walls of the prison’s outdoor exercise yards. It was a pleasure to provide the English for this dual-language volume.
HAWTHORNE PROWLS THE CONCORD RIVER
My poem “Hawthorne, Newlywed, Makes Peace with the River” is out in the print version of CAESURA, the journal of the Poetry Center San José. Based on Hawthorne’s journal entries from early in his marriage to artist Sophia Peabody, the poem traces his fresh inspiration through art and procreation at an Emerson-owned manse by the Concord River.
THANKS TO SALAMANDER
for its consistent support of my poetry. My poem “After the Eruption” appears in the June 2019 issue of this beautiful journal at Boston’s Suffolk University. Many thanks to Jennifer Barber, as she retires from her editorship of the journal.
THE GIFT TO THE PEOPLE
This beautifully designed major art book from the Icelandic Confederation of Labour gathers all the works in Ragnar at Smári’s founding collection for the first time in print. It was a delight to translate the essays and rich material on each painting by art historian Kristín G. Guðnadóttir and to work with museum director Elísabet Gunnarsdóttir. The book, published in June 2019, has been well received and has even found a place in the library at Bessastaðir, Iceland’s presidential mansion.
It is bracing to immerse yourself in Ragnar’s values at this time in history. A staunch supporter of writers and artists, Ragnar said that art feeds the adult soul as milk feeds a newborn. Guðnadóttir’s texts abound in commentary from Ragnar’s friends, who included Halldór Laxness, Jóhannes Kjarval, and many other authors and painters of Ragnar’s day.
My poem to SIR WALTER RALEIGH in THE SCORES
My poem “To the Honourable, Learned Walter Raleigh – A Relation of Our Adventure in Iceland” and a recording of me reading the poem may be accessed through this link
The poem’s environmental inventory was inspired by Raleigh’s DISCOVERY OF GUIANA, a harrowing prose account of his 1595 expedition to the “new world.”
The bilingual (German-English) catalogue of the audiovisual collaboration NS-12 between filmmaker Kristján Loðmfjörð and composer Konrad Korabiewski came out from Hatje Cantz Verlag, Berlin, earlier this spring of 2019. This visual meditation on life on a fishing boat includes my translation of Kristín Ómarsóttir’s “It Took So Long to Invent the Woman,” her essay and extensive, playfully serious interview with Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, Iceland’s fourth president and Europe’s first female president. Other texts include Anna Friz’s “The Ruminations and Reveries of an Icelandic Trawler” and Daniel Canty’s “Gold Maker.” The black-and-white photographs, sketch, and wonderful cover give a sense of the video installation that the book is born from. Congrats to Korabiewski and Loðmfjörð.
MARCH 2019 READINGS
It was great to join poets and audience for the Speakeasy in the Encore Room at Bellingham’s Mt. Baker Theatre on March 2 for an evening devoted to Walt Whitman’s line, “What is it, then, between us?” from “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.”
We exchanged poems on the theme of civil interaction in democracy, with contributions ranging from Rena Priest’s poetic reconfiguration of the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott to Washington poet laureate Claudia Castro Luna’s evocations of Salvadoran immigrant experience in 21st century Seattle.
I’m looking forward to reading for the Poem Booth project on Saturday, March 30th, at 7 p.m. at the downtown Coop, Bellingham.
TIL HAMINGJU, ÍSLAND
Iceland is celebrating one hundred years of sovereignty, as a small nation in a contentious world. I enjoyed translating the new exhibition for Jónshús, the Icelandic Culture House, at the home of Jón Sigurðsson and Ingibjörg Einarsdóttir at Øster Voldgade 12, Copenhagen. Delightfully, the new exhibition emphasizes Ingibjörg’s hitherto neglected role in the struggle for Icelandic sovereignty.
A sampling from EYESOUND AT SEATTLE’S NORDIC MUSEUM
Through March 31, 2019: Works from the National Museum of Iceland’s summer 2018 exhibition EyeSound at the new, lovely Nordic Museum in Seattle. A collaboration between Danish photographers Eben West and Else Ploug Isaksen and Icelandic poets Sigurbjörg Þrastardóttir, Einar Már Guðmundsson, Kristín Ómarsdóttir, and Hallgrímur Helgason. To translate the poetry of these very different poets for the National Museum exhibition was a delicious challenge.
SUBARCTIC FRUIT has been reprinted
My essay on happiness, beauty, and the fertility of our surroundings, “Subarctic Fruit,” is out afresh this November in the Fall 2018 Silk Road, a literary crossroads, reprinted (from Silk Road #13, 2015) as an editors’ favorite for the magazine’s 20th issue. Many thanks to the editors for their support, and to Pacific University for its support of the journal.
My Town: WHILE THE RAIN SANG AND MY ROOTS CALLED OUT TO ME
Kristín Ómarsdóttir’s “Lyrical Look at Hafnarfjörður” appears in my translation in the Summer 2018 Icelandair in-flight magazine, Icelandair Stopover.
THE POEM BOOTH
I enjoyed reading my poem “Overseas Call from the Riverbank” with other Poem Booth contributors at the January, 2018, launch of their 2017 chapbook. The Poem Booth is a battered, colorful, converted phone booth outside the busy Bellingham, WA, Food Coop.
ICELAND: VISIONS OF EARTH
Massimo Lupidi’s beautiful book of photographs Iceland: Visions of Earth is now available in Italian, French, and English editions from Sassi Editore, with poems by Sigurbjörg Þrastardóttir (in my translation in the English edition) and a foreword by Eliza Reid, first lady of Iceland.
Public debut of THE MOON IN DAYTIME
Many thanks to Kristina Lee Podesva and Alan McConchie of Bruna Press / LocalGroup Studio for the opportunity to read from my novel, The Moon in Daytime—the public debut of a long-cherished project. How glad I was to see smiles cropping up around the room!
“ON THE WAY DOWN” in WORLD LITERATURE TODAY
Award-winning novelist Oddný Eir’s philosophical essay “On the Way Down: Fluttering Wings and Three-Dimensional Afterthoughts” appeared in my translation in World Literature Today Nov-Dec 2016.