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…)
This is my desk. Quite simply. It tends to get cluttered up. The computer is mostly used for Facebook and music – I’m writing in the book, paper and pen. This is not always the case. The black boxes on the right hand side are „business papers“ – taxes and so forth. On top of it is a DVD with a children’s (Go Diego Go) belonging to my son, who left to be with his mother a few days ago. The photographs on the wall are (from the left) of my grandmother, who died last winter, with my (german-icelandic) grandfather who died when I was small; then my grandmother with her siblings and finally a sonar picture of a daughter I’m expecting in april (with my ex-wife). The white note on the wall is to remind me to return a children’s book to the library (I have still not returned it, it’s been more than a month). The coffee clock behind the computer does not work. The big stapler was bought in 2001 to facilitate self-publishing of chap books. It sadly never saw much use (I lent it to a friend who left the country and buried it in his parents’ storage, where it was found long after my need to self-publish chap books had expired). The envelope on the right contains my Finnish tax return, filling it out is an ominous task which scares me. The poster on the wall is from a cross country tour that I did with a group of poets in the summer of 2003 – ten years ago. The two frames on the left side of the desk, leaning against the wall, are award documents. The guitar on the right does not get much use. Like many poets I wish I was a rockstar, but I really prefer a steel string guitar to a classical – and I learned to play the electric, not an acoustic. But playing an electric guitar makes no sense if you’re not in a band.
Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl, Ísafjörður/Iceland
The network of partners of lyrikline.org has expanded. We welcome our partners in Iceland, Lithuania, Russia and China
Das Partnernetzwerk von lyrikline.org ist größer geworden. Wir begrüßen unsere Partner in Island, Litauen, Russland und China
Iceland/Island : Bókmenntasjóður – The Icelandic Literature Fund (Reykjavik)
Lithuania/Litauen: Koperator – Tarptautinių kultūros programų centras – The International Cultural Programme Centre (Vilnius)
Russia/Russland: Новая литературная карта России – New Literary Map of Russia (Moskau)
China: DJS Art Foundation [private foundation to support poetry and arts] (Los Angeles)