The poet whose name is most interwoven with the city in the minds of its inhabitants is probably Tómas Gudmundsson (1901–1983). He is often referred to as the Reykjavík Poet and Reykjavík City's poetry award is named for him. Tómas wrote about the city in a way that had never been done before; he saw beauty in day-to-day life, in the urban bustle and cityscapes that had previously been depicted as bleak and dreadful in Icelandic literature. His poetry was accessible, which made it popular, as it still is today in fact. In the book Fagra Veröld (Beautiful World) from 1933 the poet describes his immediate surroundings in the city, the coal crane down by the harbour and the streets of the city centre, and he sings the city's praises with words like these: “Rising out of the rain, the young city, / rosy and fresh as if stepping out of her bath.” Verses by Tómas, including the one these lines are taken from, are displayed for the public's enjoyment on the windows of Reykjavík City Hall. Another poet closely linked with Reykjavík is Steinn Steinarr (1908–1958), who was both a radical, political writer and one of the poets who shook loose the restraints of traditional poetry and made way for modernism. His poetry was philosophical, and he was among the first poets to compose poetry about the existential dilemmas of the modern man in Iceland.¹⁰ The so-called Atom Poets emerged in the 1950s, poets who revolutionized the form and brought fresh trends from foreign cities to the country. This period is often referred to as the Atom Age, meaning first and foremost of course that traditional Icelandic society was finally truly giving way to the modern age. Matthías Johannessen (b. 1930) was one of the poets starting to write at this time, and he often finds inspiration in the city. He was born and raised in Reykjavík, and the city is the framework around many of his poems about childhood and memories. An article on Matthías's poetry claims that it gives the very first example of a positive view of an urban youth in Icelandic literature.¹¹
The poet whose name is most interwoven with the city in the minds of its inhabitants is probably Tómas Gudmundsson (1901–1983). He is often referred to as the Reykjavík Poet and Reykjavík City's poetry award is named for him.
Childhood is also beautifully portrayed in the poetry of Vilborg Dagbjartsdóttir (b. 1930), one of the few women modernists. She moved to Reykjavík as a young woman and worked for decades as a teacher in one of the city's elementary schools, and was also active in the women's rights movement from the beginning of the 1970s. Her poetry bears witness to this, as does the poetry of Ingibjörg Haraldsdóttir (b. 1942), Steinunn Sigurdardóttir (b. 1950), and Gerdur Kristný (b. 1970). They are all among Iceland's most prominent contemporary poets, as are Thorsteinn frá Hamri (b. 1938), Hannes Pétursson (b.1931), the aforementioned Gyrdir Elíasson and Sigurdur Pálsson (b. 1948). Like Steinunn, Sigurdur belonged to a group of poets in the 1970s who called themselves the “Bad Poets”, and who
UNESCO City of Literature
Published on Jul 23, 2012