1. Tell us about your relationship to Rome
My first encounter with Rome was at the age of 18, Fiumicino airport was the first stop of my one-year exchange stay in the Marche-region. The memory is somewhat bleak, I remember being harassed on the bus and struggling with even the simplest signs in this alien language. I went on to stay a couple of years in Italy, in Marche and in Bologna, keeping close ties to those places ever since. Finally, when I at last came back to Rome, first to do a poetry reading at Ritratti di Poesia in the Tempio di Adriano, a few years ago, and then to stay at Circolo, I absolutely fell for Rome and I think it’s a privilege to be here.
2. How have you found working in Circolo and Rome?
It’s tricky to stick to your desk when you stay in a place with so many magnets, but it’s been going quite fine. Among other things, I have worked on translations of Italian poetry here, and also on original poetry for an Italian photography book, so in some aspects Italy has seeped into my work. I also wrote the poem for the Icelandic Lady of the Mountains (fjallkonan) whilst here, and sent home radio columns. These were all side projects to my “everyday” writing. Working abroad is also about being influenced on your walks, so there is in fact no need to feel guilty when walking out of the house. Also, you make a lot of cultural friends, I for one have become quite close with Cristina di Svezia, who lives next door.
3. What's the best part about Rome?
It is difficult do describe, it’s an atmospheric thing. Sitting in a quiet street, with the buzz going on elsewhere, is one of the best. Taking the bus with the locals, getting lost. Stumbling upon indoor artwork on outside walls. Chatting to the taxi drivers. Plunging into a pricey watermelon … It may well be predictable to quote La Grande Bellezza, but I watched it in Rome and the final scene, the sail along the Tevere, somehow brought me to tears because it is just here, behind our house, and it is full of tragic stories.
4. Something you don't like?
Perhaps, but those things are so closely linked to the grand picture that they cannot easily be cut away.
5. What would you absolutely recommend that people do if they visit Iceland?
I’d tell them to zip up their windbreakers and head out of town, into the emptiness, out of the traffic, equipped with perhaps a map and whatever device they prefer to use for documenting inner life.
Questions: Oona Haapamäki
Text: Sigurbjörg Þrastardóttir