“The North Chose Us” said Nils-Aslak Valk eapää, poet of the Sami people. I would never, ever say I am capable of evoking Sami identity, or the geography and ecology found where the Sami live in the far north of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and northwestern Russia. The furthest North I have ever been is Iceland, which I have visited five times, but I remain fascinated by those countries and cultures which lie near and within the Arctic Circle. Inuit, Sami, Greenlanders and Icelanders seem to me to be the ultimate survivors. Iceland alone has suffered not just the harsh cold, but earthquakes, volcanoes and disease that at one point in the country’s history seemed destined to wipe out the entire population, which even today stands at just 339,764. I hope on World Poetry Day to pay tribute to some of ‘The Peoples of the North’ not by writing some sort of poetic hagiography or cultural appropriation, but attempting to show how inspiring the cultures of the far North are to me.
Yes, I will highlight some of the problems, indignities and cultural destruction that have been forced onto these peoples. Most importantly however I will try to perform poetry that reflects the mystery, the beauty, and the culture that I have seen and read about.
Author - June Palmer