Three Poems by Friða Ísberg

Translated from the Icelandic by Meg Matich. 
This is part of our special feature, New Nordic Voices.



wet paper
tangled in birch branches

inside the window, smoking,
a woman with red hair

says to herself:

they can’t hear me anymore

slip into the white
like burst egg yolks

the living room is heavy

on the carpet,
fragile things, scattered,

soaked in bile

she wraps them
in old newspapers

and shoves them back
down her throat




They’ve persisted
in watering me
for years

placed me on the window sill
stored me there

forgot me there

but it’s fine:
add fuel to the flames

it’s fine:
a woman is the pyre




mom is turning into
an unanswered phone call

here are my limits
she says and chalks
a circle around herself

her embrace, once hot
now hardens

still, cinders slip
into her mail slot

as if in tow

as if she herself bears the torch
that burns the bridge behind her

mom barks into the phone
like a chained dog
forbidden from moving closer

and when she does
she wants nothing but to comb
your hair, hold your hand

braid her long fingers
with your short ones

she asks you to sing her song
howls it out of an open car window

laughs: we‘re not in tune

and she‘s right
you’re off-key

you can’t grow up fast enough
she can’t calm herself down


Fríða Ísberg (1992) is an Icelandic poet and reviewer. Her first collection of poems, Slitförin (e. The Stretch Marks), was released by Partus Press in October, 2017. The collection was awarded the Icelandic Booksellers Choice Award for Poetry 2017, received the Grassroots Grant from the Icelandic Literature Center and was nominated for Fjöruverðlaunin, The Icelandic Women’s Literature Prize in 2018. She is a member of the Icelandic poetry collective Svikaskáld (e. The Imposter Poets) and writes occasionally for the Times Literary Supplement.

Meg Matich is a Reykjavik-based translator-poet. She’s received numerous awards for her work as a translator from organizations like the Icelandic Literature Centre, PEN America, and the Fulbright Commission, and has translated poetry for UNESCO. Cold Moons (2017 Phoneme Media) is her first full-length translation of Tími kaldra mána by Magnús Sigurðsson. The work (EN/IS) has been ‘translated’ into a choral symphony by composer David R. Scott. Her translations have appeared or are forthcoming in places like The Boston Review, Gulf Coast, Asymptote, and Words Without Borders. She is currently editing and translating an anthology of 32 Icelandic poets for The Café Review’s Summer 2018 issue.


Published on April 17, 2018.


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