Lögberg-Heimskringla - 12.09.1980, Blaðsíða 6

Lögberg-Heimskringla - 12.09.1980, Blaðsíða 6
Page 6 The Magician's Voice by W.D. VALGARDSON Settlement Poems I, Turnstone Press, Winnipeg One-Eyed Moon Maps, Press Porcepic, Victoria. Many people write verse but seldom, perhaps only once or twice in a generation, does a poet arise who has the power, like a magician, to create illusions which demand our attention. Kristjana Gunnars is one of those magicians. Born in Reykjavik in 1948, she immigrated, at the age of sixteen, to the United States. Later, she moved to Canada and has lived in British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. She has a M.A. in literature from the University of Regina. Many authors are content to publish a book every five or ten years. Gun- nars will have, within a period of two years, four bocks of poems published by three different publishers. In her first book, Settlement Poems 1, she has accomphshed what so long has needed to be done. She has reached back info the past and recreated, as art, the lives of the early Icelandic im- migrants. In doing this she has bpth made the settlers more human and understandablc while also raising their lives to a mythic level. The book makes clear the depth of the suffering and, thus, the height of the settlers' victory. To reach into the lives of the settlers, Gunnars has reached back, through her research and translations, to what the settlers were like in the 1800's. In doing this, she avoids the common mistake of assuming that people in the 1800's were similar to us. In "From Memory I" the speaker says 400 of us leave on the verona wednesdayjuly 12 from seydisfjordur, gudridur pregnant with a son to cut trees in canada "From Memory II' draws us into the superstition of the 1800's, the un- certainty of travelling to a distant land, the everpresent and real danger to be faced. dont't air your guilt on sundays, don't give each other a sharp tool eat the heart of a ptarmigan put two tongues under your tongue and kiss hang a raven's heart around your neck hang a crow's heart around your neck Conditions in Iceland were difficult but conditions on the boats which carried the immigrants were desperate. Sickness was everywhere, death was common and medicine was still so primitive that it often did more harm than good. In "From Memory III", the speaker tells us Groa is dying wife of jon asmundsson from faskrudsfjordur just before docking july 31, she'smadeit toquebec and groa is dying don't send me back where the veinman bleeds me In the latter part of the book, Gunnars has a series of poems spoken by Johann Briem and Stefan Eyjolf- sson. In these poems, she carefully builds the characters of the men so that each poem expands the portrait of both the speaker and his community. ' 'Johann Briem V'' says waited 5 conspicuous days in winnipeg, at 3 august 13 we disappear again on 6 boxes up red river wasn't so bad, i'm normal Jie with humans in crags & knolls, grateful for a good deed and draws us along on the journey from Selkirk to Gimli. Simultaneously, she draws into the internal world of fear and superstition. While reading these powerful poems, I thought that there are always those in a community who try to deal with the past by denying it. Rather than acknowledge the poverty, the hardships, the sorrow, the incredible cost their ancestors paid, these people refuse to hear about it. Such people do not realize what a terrible disservice they do to their people. They steal from them the honour that is rightly theirs. If a man came to America already a millionaire, with everything at his disposal, and he succeeded, how much honour is due him for his ac- complishment? Not much, I think. However, if an immigrant family from Iceland came to Canada with seven dollars per person, knowing little or no English, having few, if any, friends already here, if they suffered terrible privation, AND STILL SUCCEEDED, then how much honour is due them? All wecangive. This book of peoms will help to give to those Icelandic settlers what is due them and guarantee that their sacrifices will be both recognized and honoured. In "One-Eyed Moon Maps", her second, soon-to-be published, book of poems, Guannars proves her ver- satility. Not only is she able to write about the past, as in "Settlement Poems I" but to constantly synthesize the past and present. In "stone" she compares the moon upön which Arm- strong and Aldrin walked to the mythic moon that hung above the tree yggdrasill. In "woman reading in moon" she turns more personal reykjavik is a quiet place my grandfather is buried opposite my house in the sundurgata cemetary he should have had a banquet burial, like the wagon graves of celts buried with a joint of pork a horn of mead in his right hand Again and again, she links present facts with the sagas, personal memories with history. The result is a group of tightly controlled poems which cannot help but move the reader with their emotion. Often, she catches beauty in images so forceful they might be paintings. She concludes "rain" by saying hard rain thrown by women with eagles' heads together in a band of cloud The sureness of each image, the cadence, the careful and inventive diction, the strength of the controlling imagination, combine to make these books necessary reading for every North American of Icelandic descent. 'In a year's time, not to have read them will be tantamount to not knowing who your grandfather was or your families farmstead in Iceland. Home to Saskatchewan by CAROLINE GUNNARSSON This is the year Saskatchewan marks its 75th birthday. Throughout the province cities, towns and villages are celebrating Homecoming Days, with expatriates from coast to coast to mak- ing sentimental journeys to the old home town. Churchbridge, Saskatchewan, chose the last three days of June and during the peak of the festivities the town's main drag resembled a busy city street, what with a sudden population growth of an estimated 3,000. The permanent population of about 1,000, sup- plemented by a very supportive rural population, proved equal to the challenge. Homes were open to visiting friends, motor homes stood parked in convenient places and the old hotel was booked to capacity. With a fine community hall, a closed-in curling rink a drop-in centre, a skating rink and swimming pool, the town seemed well equipped to take large scale entertaining in it£ stride and it rose to the occasion. Hot and cold meals were served three times each day, and over the good food friend sought friend and the years of separation fell away in the magic of shared remembrance. Young and old took part in programs of varied en- tertainment staged in the town hall. There were class reunions of old schoolmates and a big ball one evening. And Heaven drenched the proceedings in the first good rain of the season. "Good for the pastures, might even save some of the crops," said the people. Their classic reaction to any break in a dry spell. Saskatchewan is good to come home to. Dedication of a Cairn The festivities ended on Sunday, June 30, with the dedication of a carin on the .original site of *Concordia Icelandic Lutheran Church, built in the year Saskatchewan joined Con- federation. By 1905 the Icelandic community had grown in a nor- thwesterly direction, leaving the old Thingvalla Church no longer the centre of the settlement. That church still stands as a cherished landmark, at life's end and some descendants of the first pioneers still join their ancestors in the old cemetery. Concordia Lutheran Church has now been moved from its rural site into twon, where it serves a Lutheran congregation of several national origins. But on the steps that once led to the church, surrounded by the cemetery, stands the new cairn. Its inscription tells the story: This cairn is erected on the site of the Concordia Icelandic Lutheran Church in commemoration of the first settlers in this area, who formed a congregation on November 5,' 1905, where they could gather to worship In 1963 /Thingvalla Icelandic Lutheran Church joined in membership with Concordia. In 1964 Peace German Lutheran Congregation merged with Concordia and worship con- tinued in the church on this site. From pioneer days the church with its lofty spire and cross on top was recognized by many a traveller. In 1967 the building was moved to Churchbridge, where its spire and cross con- tinue to show the way and the original bell chimes its call to come and worship. Preceding the dedication ceremony Pastor Johann Fredrikson of Regina, who served the congregation for some years, held a worship service in the church and Gisli Markusson briefly outlined its history. Mrs. Vilborg Hinrikson unveiled the cairn, with her small great- granddaughter, Kathryn Davis, by her side. Vilborg was born in the com- munity and both she and her late husband, Bjorn Hinrikson, were raised as members of the congregation. Vilborg's parents, Magnus and Gudrun Magnusson, and Bjorn's parents, . Eyjolfur and Ingibjorg Hinrikson were founding members, as were their two grandfathers, Magnus Magnusson and Hinrik Gislason. A short distance from the new memorial stands another cairn. Its dedication 45 years ago, was attended by eleborate festivities com- memorating the 50th anniversary of Thingvalla Icelandic settlement, dating back to 1885. • FOR SALE ORIGINAL ISSUES OF HEIMSKRINGLA 1897 - 1928 BOUND VOLUMES. ALL IN GOOD CONDITION. BEST OFFER ] 'OR ALL. PHONE. 247-4233. CONTACT R. BLACKBURN 55 Springside Drive Winnipeg, Man. R2M 0W9

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