Una publishing house recently released Pólifónía af erlendum uppruna, a collection of poetry by immigrants to Iceland. The book features fifteen different poets from nine different countries exploring aspects of their immigrant experiences. A press release proclaims that “it’s high time that the voices of immigrants are heard in Icelandic literature and this book is a good start.”
The concept was conceived by editor and one of the featured writers Natasha Stolyarova in collaboration with Una publishing house. After reading the work of Danish-Palestinian poet Yahya Hassan, she wondered about the lack of immigrant voices in Icelandic literature. During times of gathering limitations due to the pandemic, she rounded up some active poets and writers in Iceland – all immigrants to Iceland. “I knew around half of the writers already,” Natasha told Iceland Review. “The others were recommended to me when I shared the idea for the project.”
“We first met in the summer of 2020,” she continues. “Sometimes in person and other times over zoom, when the pandemic was raging.” They passed around notes of open-ended questions about their experiences in Iceland, of the country, the language, the people, and their interactions with them. This inspired some of the poets to write new work, while others submitted older work they felt fit the theme. “It’s everything they had to say about their experience as an immigrant in Iceland, in poetic form.” Even though the work is now complete, the group is now working on promoting the book and attending poetry readings and literary events during the so-called Christmas book flood. “So much has happened since we started this. People have moved away from Iceland and back again. Two of the poets have had children!” Natasha tells me.
The book is intended for Icelandic readers. All the featured poems are in Icelandic, some were written in Icelandic while others appear in the original language as well as Icelandic translations. With writers from 11 countries – including Russia, Italy, Colombia, Serbia, Denmark, Finland, India, Poland, the US, and Canada – the book has poems in languages such as English, Portuguese, and Finnish, and one poet even writes in their own version of the Icelandic language and developed their own script.
The writers of Pólífónía af erlendum uppruna are Ana Mjallhvít Drekadóttir, a rawlings, Deepa R. Iyengar, Elías Knörr, Ewa Marcinek, Francesca Cricelli, Giti Chandra, Jakub Stachowiak, Juan Camilo Roman Estrada, Mao Alheimsdóttir, Meg Matich, Natasha Stolyarova, Randi W. Stebbins, Sofie Hermansen Eriksdatter, and Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, with translations by Aðalsteinn Ásberg Sigurðsson, Brynja Hjálmsdóttir, Gunnhildur Jónatansdóttir, Helga Soffía Einarsdóttir, Kári Tulinius, Magnea J. Matthíasdóttir, and Þórdís Helgadóttir.