Stormwarning by Kristín Svava Tómasdóttir



Translated from the Icelandic by K.T. Billey



we loiter under the sign like wandering horses
the pipes sing and the iron creaks
the colorful goretex-clad line winds down the hill
Iceland is a land in constant formation

they take material from Lambafell
they drive the Lambafell material
to set it down someplace else

gradually Lambafell disappears
but someplace else a new land will be made
where before was sea and beach

when blood vessels in the heart fail
veins are taken from the leg
and set in their place
and the leg tissue grows together in no time

new mountains will be
where they were missing before

we are land in constant formation


Artistically inclined speculators broker the products of novelists
countesses spoon-feed performance artists with diamond dust
but where are the drunk wholesalers
to support us still drunker poets
for our company and cultural capital

absent wholesaler!
I would be satisfied
with a custom suit
a drive out to Þingvellir
and sips of scotch
I could roll in my mouth
mulling the limits of my artistic integrity


Go mountains!
Go clouds!
Go moss!


It is so hard to imagine oneself in the past, to try to lift
the present from the picture:

the planted trees the power lines the pavement
the summer cottages the cars the shipping containers
the bridges the campsite

then the autumn dark comes
and suddenly all is as it was


Gray carpet and gray chairs and
gray walls and gray table and
gray cocktail glasses
and gray fax machine and gray
door frame and gray neighbors
and gray staircase and gray street and
the gray sky and our pale running
feet and the nylon beard we turn
upwards, the slippery ice and fireworks
and all this life-threatening open space
for us


I draw the line
at violence

I draw the line
at property damage

I draw the line
at five thousand krónur

I draw the line
at a million

I draw the line
at a billion

I draw the line
at unsupervised parties

I draw the line
at Poland

I draw the line
at oceanswimming

I draw the line
at the third hobo

I draw the line
at veils

I draw the line
at goats

I draw the line
at stains in the sheets

I draw the line
at the boy in tears

I draw the line
at 2004

I draw the line
at enemas

I draw the line
at silicone

I draw the line
at sour whale blubber

I draw the line
at daydrinking
at smoking while pregnant
at that which can threaten public health

I draw the line
at that American here for his friend’s stag weekend

I draw the line
since the line must lie

I draw the line
in rings and bows

here is the line

I draw the line


Kristín Svava Tómasdóttir was born in Reykjavík in 1985. She has published three books of poetry: Blótgælur (Tender Swear Words, 2007), Skrælingjasýningin (The Savages’ Exhibition, 2011), and Stormviðvörun (Stormwarning, 2015). Her first book, Blótgælur, won the Booksellers´ Award for the best poetry collection in 2007. She has translated both poetry and prose into Icelandic, mostly from Spanish, English, and Portuguese, and is currently working on a book about the history of pornography in Iceland.

K.T. Billey’s debut collection Vulgar Mechanics is a finalist for Fordham Lincoln Center’s Poets Out Loud Prize. Stormwarning, Billey’s translation of the third book of poems by Icelandic poet Kristín Svava Tómasdóttir, is forthcoming from Phoneme Media in 2017. An Icelandic-Ukrainian Canadian originally from rural Alberta, Canada, Billey’s translations from Icelandic and Spanish have appeared in The Harvard Review, Circumference, and Palabras Errantes. She is also an educator, editor and literary critic.


Photo: K.T. Billey, The Establishment
Photo: Kristín Svava Tómasdóttir, Partus Press


Published on November 1, 2016.


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