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Waitress in Fall – Poems

Höfundur: Kristín Ómarsdóttir

Alternately you look into my eyes and at my breasts.
I look into your eyes and look at you looking at my breasts.
My breasts look at your trouser pockets.
Your trouser pockets contain your hands.
The buttons on your trouser pockets are falling asleep.
They wake to the sound of the alarm clock.
The alarm clock doesn’t ring right away.

For over three decades, Kristín Ómarsdóttir’s poetry has thrived in the vanguard of Icelandic literature. Waitress in Fall offers anglophone readers the first substantial selection of her poems in translation. Spanning thirty years and seven collections, from her first to her latest, this is a wide-reaching introduction to a vital voice of contemporary European poetry.

Kristín’s work resists the sweet, the neat or the certain. Her poems delight in the lush mess of actual life, in its hands and fingers, lemons and clocks, socks, soldiers, snow, mothers, knives, nightstands, sweat and crockery. If the domestic is at the heart of the work, it is a domesticity tinged with threat. Something ‘clear and ominous’ is taking shape between the lines. Images of placid mid-century housewifery confront a wildness pulsing below the surface, a womanhood at once natural and supernatural – of evening dresses woven from twigs, necklaces strung with worms, and socks knitted from saliva.

These are surreal, unsettling landscapes, in which children lap milk from trees and car tires are ‘soft as skin’. But Kristín’s poems are also full of laughter, sex, and love. They accept vulnerability as a condition of intimacy. Erupting ‘wherever thirst is ignited’, they are not afraid to strike, to rage, recognising a right – a responsibility – to risk the necessary word, ‘to wound the language’.

Kristín Ómarsdóttir (b. 1962) has published over 17 books: six novels, seven books of poetry, three books of short stories, and half a dozen of her plays have been produced. Her novels have been translated into many languages including Swedish, French, and English. She has won numerous awards including the DV Cultural Award for Literature, the Icelandic Women’s Literature Prize, and the Icelandic national prize for best playwright of the year. Kristín has also been nominated four times for the Icelandic Literary Award as well as once to The Nordic Council Literary Prize.

Selected and translated by Vala Thorodds.

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