Reykjavík City of Literature works with partners both locally and on an international level. Reykjavík’s sister Cities of Literature in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, Dublin, Edinburgh, Iowa City, Melbourne, Norwich, Krakow, Dunedin, Prague, Granada and Heidelberg are its main partners, but Reykjavík also works with organizations and institutions on projects, either long- or short term ones.
Examples of short term projects at an international level:
Drop the Mic
The UNESCO Cities of Literature, Reykjavík, Kraków, Tartu and Heidelberg have joined hands, together with Copenhagen, in a project that aims to engage the overlapping worlds of songwriting and poetry. The project is speardheaded by Reykjavík, Kraków and Tartu and supported by the Nordic Culture Point.
Traditional forms of writing often confine literature to text-based narratives. However, the interplay between the mediums of spoken word, slam, rap and hip-hop, songwriting, and poetry traverses linguistic, cultural and artistic barriers and develops infinite narrative possibilities that are often more ‘democratic’ and approachable to audiences.The project aims to build an international platform of cooperation. Participants will discuss existing work and identify similarities and differences between spoken word traditions in these countries. New ideas will be developed that will hopefully lead to the production of new experimental works and further development of the field, and there will be diffusion of knowledge and best practices.
The project started in Reykjavík during the Reykjavík Reads Festival in October 2016, with meetings, workshop and poets performing at public events. Subsequently, poets will travel to the other cities, ending in Copenhagen in the fall of 2017. In all places, the guests will meet local poets and organizers, do workshops and take part in public events. In between these meetings, participants will connect online and work towards common international cross-cultural projects in the future.
Reykjavik Writing Jam
In October 2014, Reykjavik UNESCO City of Literature and Seattle City of Literature joined hands in a project connecting writers from Reykjavik and Seattle. Bragi Ólafsson of Reykjavik and Karen Finneyfrock of Seattle wrote character descriptions, then exchanged them and wrote a short story based on the character created by the other author. The event Reykjavik Writing Jam took place at the Elliot Bay Book Company on October 10th 2014.
This ‘character jam’ was accompanied by a ‘zine jam’ hosted by ZAPP, Seattle’s Zine Archive and Publishing Project. Guest were invited to craft their own zines of Karen and Bragi’s work with a variety of materials. Bragi Ólafsson is a prize-winning novelist who has had two novels published in the U.S. in English translation, The Pets and The Ambassador (both Open Letter). Karen Finneyfrock’s books include a collection of poetry, Ceremony for the Choking Ghost; two young adult novels, The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door and Starbird Murphy and the World Outside; and her wonderful co-edited poetry anthology, Courage: Daring Poems for Gutsy Girls.
Read the stories:
The 2014 edition of the Reykjavik Reads Festival was devoted to short and very short stories, but it also focused on the creative process. Within a very rich and versatile programme of the festival that included readings, workshops, exhibitions, lectures, events for schools and the new national competition Let’s Read, there was also time for Polish stories. The City of Literature was the Icelandic partner in a project called Transgressions: International Narratives Exchange. The project was supported by a grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants and co-financed by Polish funds. Transgressions brought together thirteen writers from these four countries.
Reykjavík City of Literature was one of the four main partners in the Polish-Icelandic poetry project called ORT, organized by the Polish Book Institute in 2013 – 2014. Poetry which often tends to be considered an elite form of literature, has an incredible power of appeal and, as the Icelandic “Bad Poets” tried to convince their audience, poems can be “contagious”, not least once they are lifted from the page during live performance or when cross the language barriers. Spreading words of poems, can have lasting consequences.
ORT attempted to build some kind of virtual bridge between Iceland and Poland. It aimed to create a platform of exchange of creative inspirations between poets, musicians, literary scholars, translators and readers in both countries through artistic collaborations, live readings and performances. A special programme called Mini-ORT was addressed to children.
Poetry Wall in Krakow
Krakow UNESCO City of Literature initiated a project, portraying poetry from (then) all seven UNESCO Cities of Literature in the very heart of Krakow. In late summer and throughout the fall of 2014, it was possible to read poetry from the seven UNESCO Cities of Literature on the corner of the Main Square and Bracka St. during the first week of every month. These are poems from Dublin, Edinburgh, Iowa City, Krakow, Melbourne, Norwich and Reykjavik. Each day, a poem from one of the member cities was projected in English and Polish.
The poetry projection project MULTIPOETRY has been up and running at this spot since 2002, hosted by the Poemat Foundation. The project began as part of the “366 poems in 365 days” initiative organized by Michał Zabłocki. On the facades of two buildings in central tourist locations in Krakow and Warsaw, every day throughout the year, 366 of Zabłocki’s poems were projected. This was a world premier of an entire volume of poetry presented in a one-of-a-kind fashion: on a wall. From this point forward, poetry has been ever-present on the facade of the building at the corner of the Main Square and Bracka Street in Krakow.
You can read more about the poems and the poets on the Multipoetry website.
The organizers of this project are the Krakow Festival Office and the Poemat Foundation. Its partners as regards poems from the UNESCO Cities of Literature are Dublin, Edinburgh, Iowa City, Melbourne, Norwich, and Reykjavik UNESCO Cities of Literature.
Long term Partnerships:
The first two writers, Volker Altwasser and Finn-Ole Heinrich, stayed in Reykjavík in the spring and summer of 2012. In spring and summer 2013 comic book writer Dirk Swieger and the team Eva Kretschmer & Ulrike Olms recided and worked in Reykjavík. In 2014 poet and book published Daniela Seel was the guest, in 2015 we welcomem Karen Köhler and the 2016 author was Lena Gorelik.
Here you can read an interview with Finn-Ole about his stay in Reykjavík (in German).
Lena Gorelik about her stay in Iceland (in English).
Goethe-Institut is an international organisation with hundreds of branches across the globe, one of them in Copenhagen. The Copenhagen branch also serves Iceland. The organization promotes the study of German abroad and encourages international cultural exchange. It also fosters knowledge about Germany by providing information on its culture, society and politics.
Reykjavík joined the Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) in 2011. The first writer to reside in Reykjavík hosted by the program was the Palestinian writer and journalist Mazen Maarouf and the second one the Cuban writer and journalist, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo.
Mazen Maarouf’s poetry book, An Angel Suspended on the Clothesline, was published in Lebanon in 2011. His first work to be published in Icelandic is the poetry book Ekkert nema strokleður, published by Dimma in 2013. He has performed several poetry readings in Lebanon and participated in many international literary festivals. Mazen’s work has been translated into numerous languages.
Watch a video of Mazen Maarouf reading his poetry at Reykjavik City Library in the fall of 2012.
A film about Mazen Maarouf: Hand Made. In the series Poets of Protest.
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo is an award-winning Cuban writer, blogger and photo journalist. Arriving in Reykjavik in September 2015, Pardo Lazo came straight from an IWP fellowship at Brown University, a residency scholarship given to writers subjected to political harassment, imprisonment, or oppression in their country of origin.
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo left Cuba in 2013, following the advent of migratory reforms launched by the government of Raul Castro. Labeled variously a ‘dissident’ and ‘counterrevolutionary’ in his native Cuba, Pardo Lazo was often targeted for his critical writings and peaceful activism. His struggle for freedom of expression in art and in social activism made Pardo Lazo subject to official censorship, including public defamation in governmental websites, job exclusion from the Cuban Radio and TV Institute (ICRT), anonymous threatening, interrogation by the political police, and arrests without charges.
Reykjavík City of Literature works closely with a number of local partners that also have international operations or ties. These are the main ones: