ÓTAL STJARNA HRÖP
– Countless stars fell –
"Í morgun vaknaði vera þín
Í vitund um hjartans töp,
Því nóttin átti sér engan draum
En ótal stjarna hröp.
Þá fannst þér auðlegð, sem önnin gaf,
Vera illra norna sköp."
- Guðfinna Jónsdóttur frá Hömrum (1899–1946)
This quote, taken from the poem “The Golden Moment”, showcases some of Guðfinna’s writing’s distinct qualities: Profound sadness with a layer of beauty, and a juxtaposition of the mundane and the colloquial with grand imagery and the supernatural. Throughout her poetry we see these strong contrasts: A once-upon-a-lifetime moment that passes you by, but also the infinite beauty of a new-born baby. The wild Icelandic nature presented metaphorically like a protective Viking ship, but also great evil hiding under a sweet, romantic exterior. The life-long journey to a place of great beauty that was always inside you, yet also man’s desperate and futile attempts to bend a great mountain to their will. Her colourful and imaginative writing evokes the dramatic landscapes of her homeland in careful detail, as we’re presented with situations that carry both the great beauty and danger that the volcanic island holds.
Guðfinna lived most of her life in Northern Iceland, working as a church musician and writing beautiful texts that unfortunately never made it outside of her native country during her lifetime. We get some small hints about her personal life through her poetry, such as the tragic and early death of her sister Hulda, who died from tuberculosis shortly after getting engaged.
Helga Ragnarsdóttir, being from the same town as Guðfinna and already familiar with her poetry, introduced Knut to it in 2019, after he expressed interest in writing settings of little-known poetry by women. The first two she sent were “Hið gullna augnablik” and “Tvær systur”, and Knut found these a joy to work with and quickly requested more, eventually leading to nine songs in total. With funding from Hljódritasjódur Rannís and the Norwegian Arts Council, they were able to record and release these songs in 2023, and hope that this will help to make Guðfinna’s poetry reach a wider audience.