(Iceland, 1962)   

Sigurjón Birgir Sigurdsson who made his name as Sjón, is one of the best-known of Iceland's younger poets, and, according to those in the know, one of the best. He is a highly productive poet and writer as well as a performer: since his 1978 début he has published 11 books of poetry, several novels and plays, scripts for films and television, and lyrics for singer Björk. Apart from this, he has held exhibitions of his own drawings and objects.

In his early years as a poet he joined the surrealist performance group 'Medusa' and for some time ran the group's art gallery.

Sjón's poetry is often characterized as surrealistic, or fantastic, and often makes high demands on the reader. A reviewer once said his poems were an almost cruel onslaught on the empathy of the well-meaning reader and his words did not seem to know their proper place. Undeniably, some of Sjón's poems are like dark, fantastic forests of unrelated words and images, in particular some of his prose poems composed of short lines of between one and four words. This may seem forbidding, but the patient reader who perseveres, without trying to take it all in at once, finds himself being carried along on the staccato beat of the prose lines, or being surprised by the fantastic and often funny combinations of images, and may discern, in these exuberant experiments, the ageless themes of love, passion and, in his most recent work, death. In his latest volume of poems much of the baroque abundance of the earlier work has gone. In his free, rhymeless verse the words are fewer, the images less exuberant, the fantastic displays fewer in number and more meaningful. A striking formal feature of Sjón's poetry is his penchant for word-repetition and prolonged enumerations, which give some of his poems the compelling drive of a litany.

© Paula Vermeijden (Translated by Ko Kooman)

[Sjón took part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 1999. This text was written on that occasion.]

On Lyrikline you can find additional information (in German) about Sjón and hear him read his poems.


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