News Nov 29, 2012

Newsweek Features a Reflection on Reykjavik

Newsweek recently featured a reflection on Iceland written by Paul Muldoon, a renowned Irish poet, whose accomplishments include a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the T.S. Eliot Prize. Here is an excerpt from his article on the “steamy and colorful land of Bjork:”

The first Icelander I met was a poet and playwright who was visiting my home city, Belfast, in the early 1970s. He told me how, when he was a boy, Saturday night was invariably bath night. He also told me how, week in and week out, his mother would stand at the bottom of the stairs and call up to him, “Please be careful not to use all the cold water.”

One of the delights of Iceland, and of Reykjavik in particular, is the ongoing catalog of incongruity, beginning with the sense that this very laid-back country and city are both perched on top of a pretty lively steam vent. Indeed, the famous spa at the Blue Lagoon was developed as a “repurposing” of the spillover from a geothermal power station.

This practical aspect of life in Iceland has been a feature since an exploratory force of Norwegians arrived there in the ninth century. The story goes that they threw a pair of poles known as “high-seat pillars” off their ship and then searched the island for where they’d drift in. They were operating on the principle that the tides would carry in all sorts of bounty to just that spot.

[…] The ability to go with the flow is nowhere more tellingly embodied than in the Icelandic horse. While the horse is itself a feature of some menus, it’s more often available for a trek across the extraordinary postvolcanic landscape of much of the island. The Icelandic horse is a slightly scaled-down model of equinity that has, in addition to a capacity to  walk, trot, canter, and gallop, a fifth gait known as the tölt. This is a speedy but smooth gait that did not, however, serve the horse particularly well in the aftermath of the 1783 eruption of Lakagigar in which three quarters of the stock was wiped out. One of my favorite photographs is of the Irish poet Louis MacNeice clinging to the back of an Icelandic horse, and despite my fear of horses, I’m driven to emulate MacNeice’s equestrian skills.

Click here to read the full article from Newsweek on The Daily Beast.