Sjón was born Iceland in 1962 and is an active supporter of the Cities of Refuge project ICORN. Thanks to his initiative, Reykjavík joined this international network of cities hosting persecuted writers.
Lyrikline Blog (LB): You are very active in the “Cities of refuge network” (ICORN). How come you made the issue of persecuted and exiled writers your topic?
Sjón (SJ): As a teenager I went to a talk given by the Somali author Nuruddin Farah about how it is to be a writer living under dictatorship. It had a strong impact on me. At the same time I was fascinated by Surrealism and through my readings about the movement and its poets in different countries I realised how provocative poetry can be, even in its most surreal or abstract form, and therefore how easily it can put the poets in opposition to authority, both political and religious. Then when the chance came I felt I had the obligation to practically do whatever I could to support persecuted writers. And that is what I have done through ICORN and PEN. Those of us who have the benefit of living in countries where free speech is allowed can show our true commitment to its values by fighting for those who are not so lucky.
LB: In your view, is it the task of a poet also to be a chronicler or witness of his/her time?
SJ: The poet can never be anything but a witness to his time. All good poems chronicle the times their author’s lived in. This is because the poet lives at the crossroads of experience and expression.
LB: In your view, is there a relation between the power of the words of a poet and that of a dictator, since they both work with language?
SJ: Poets keep the language in its most beautiful state, (more…)