‘Jöklar’ by a.rawlings

vispo 3 1 cover


angela’s research in acoustic ecology, counter-mapping, and ecopoetics informs her artistic output. She received a Chalmers Arts Fellowship (Canada, 2009) and held the position of Arts Queensland Poet-in-Residence (Australia, 2012). In 2013, Áfall / Trauma was shortlisted for the Leslie Scalapino Award. Her literary debut Wide slumber for lepidopterists (Coach House Books, 2006) is being adapted for stage production in Iceland.


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It’s called Jöklar, which is the Icelandic word for glaciers. The piece houses fifteen names of Icelandic glaciers, and the word play transforms each glacial name in such a way that mimics the ecosystem shift due to climate change. This, then, emphasizes the fragility (or manipulability) of both language and ecosystem. The northwesternmost glacier Drangajökull transforms to Draugajökull, with drauga meaning haunting. The largest ice cap in Europe, Vatnajökull, shifts from vatna (waters, lakes) to Vantajökull, with vanta meaning to lack or to be missing. The first glacier in Iceland to disappear was Ok (and that’s happened in the last ten years), and here the word play slips into English (okay) as the word ekki (meaning not) prefixes the glacier— Ekki Ok (not okay).


Some glacier names are transformed into verb clauses.


Þrándarjökull becomes Granda jökli (to destroy glacier)

Þórisjökull becomes Óróajökull (turmoil glacier)

Eiríksjökull becomes eigi jökull (no glacier)

Hofsjökull becomes Hálfjökull (half glacier)

Snæfellsjökull becomes Smækka jökull (to shrink glacier)

Tungnafellsjökull becomes áfallsjökull (trauma glacier)

Tindfjallajökull becomes týnafjallajökli (to lose mountain glacier)

Mýrdalsjökull becomes myrða jökul (to murder glacier)

Sólheimajökull becomes sálugi jökli (decreased glacier)

Heinbergsjökull becomes harmabergsjökul (to lament glacier)

Eyjafjallajökull becomes eyðafjallajökli (to destroy mountain glacier)

Öræfajökull becomes Kæfajökull (to suffocate / choke glacier)

The digital poetry version of this is set up on a fade-in and fade-out sequence that allows for each glacier name to transform when at its full strength of visibility. At that point, the transformation has been devised on a randomized algorithm that allows for split-second speed differences as well as which letter transforms sequentially (if more than one letter shift). The parallel, here, is the inability for humans to control the shift, though it may become possible for some observant witnesses to anticipate what the glacier name (and by proxy, the glacier) will become.