Baldur Óskarsson
(Iceland, 1932)   
Baldur Óskarsson

Baldur Óskarsson lives in Reykjavik, where he has worked in broadcasting since 1956. He belongs to the generation that followed the so-called atómskald movement of atonal poets who broke free from Icelandic tradition with its strict allitteration and other rhyme patterns. Baldur himself uses free verse form in poems that are often hard to access as a result of his highly personal use of image and metaphor.

Baldur's images hail from different worlds, such as the visual arts and music. He frequently uses quotations from or references to the Bible and traditional Icelandic texts, as well as references to distant, less readily recognizable cultural spheres. The reader is left with a sensation of 'semi-recognition' which often has an alienating effect. He has been characterized as a surrealist, reminiscent of the Italian painter De Chirico, who features in one of his poems. Like the faceless beings standing forlornly in De Chirico's empty landscapes, man in Baldur's poems stands forlornly in time which carries him relentlessly towards his death. In his poetry the clock, ticking or silent, is an ever recurring motif. Many of his poems are shrouded in melancholy: 'ah, soul, soul, grey - how grey this life is.' The poet tries to fathom life's mysteries, as a visionary, a seeker, an alchemist, an astronomer, but his powers fail him. They far from fail him when he translates his feelings into images of nature. These images, with their wealth of forms and subtle shades of colour in the changing light of night and day seem to have been created with a painter's brush. And in some poems we can hear, in the incantatory repetitions of a few words, the voice of the magician, or the echo of music.

© Paula Vermeijden (Translated by Ko Kooman)

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


    Subscribe to the newsletter

    follow us on facebook follow us on twitter Follow us (international)  

    follow us on facebook follow us on twitter Follow us (Dutch)