Readers might recall that our poetry editor Matthew Landrum has a particular interest in the language of the Faroe Islands. With his first chapbook of Faroese translations out now from Coldhub Press, we thought it was a good moment to ask him exactly just…
… how did you end up studying Faroese?
I heard about Faroese through reading Christine De Luca [who we published back in issue 10—Ed.]. Christine writes in Shetlandic Scots which is heavily influenced by the now extinct language Norn which was kissing cousins with Faroese. As you can see, that was a bit of a rabbit hole I fell down. I Googled the Faroes and saw how beautiful they were—all grass clad mountains and sheep. I stumbled across the University of the Faroe Island’s summer institute in Faroese and the idea of attending percolated for five years before I finally made it over there.
When did you come across the work of Agnar Artúvertin?
On my first trip to the islands in 2011, I wrote to the writer’s guild and asked them to get me in touch with one of their members. They sent Agnar. My intention in meeting was just to discuss poetics and talk the writing life but by the end of that first meeting we had agreed to collaborate.
How long have you been working on this project?
It’s funny with poetry and translation—there’s often a lag between a project and publication. Art is long and print is just a bit longer. All of these poems were completed in 2011 and 2012. Agnar quit writing toward the end of 2012 and, without new work to translate, the collaboration dried up. It took a few years after that to order the manuscript, submit the work, get accepted, and go to printing.
Any favourite lines from the collection?
I’ll share my favorite poem, The Little Boy, here. To me, it captures the essence of Artúvertin’s poetic persona with its taciturn language and unflinching acknowledgement of the limitations of human decency.
I’m fucking hungry
a little boy said to me
as I was passing a kindergarten
on my way to the shop.
His mother grabbed him by the collar,
shook him, and yelled
shut your mouth
or I’ll tan your fucking hide.
What could I do?
I kept walking.
What’s next with translation for you?
I’ve usually got a few balls up in the air with translation. Last year I finished translating Faroese poet Jóanes Nielsen’s book Bridges of Hungry Words. So I’m looking for a publisher with that. I’m currently working on some Faroese fiction by Sámal Soll and writing a chapbook of free translations/imitations of Lorca. I’m headed back to the Islands in August to meet with my authors and brush up on my Faroese. I’ll see about more projects after that.
You can pick up The Lonesome Savior from New Zealand-based Cold Hub Press. It costs NZ$ 19.95 (€12/US$13) which includes worldwide delivery. You can find out more about Matthew and his writing over at his website or on Twitter.