Bubbly in the Vulva

October 12, 2016

"Bubbly in the Vulva" is the opening poem in Stormwarning, Kristín Svava Tómasdóttir's third book of poetry. A fitting harbinger, it is scathing and direct, dripping sarcasm into a deadpan collection. Turning sexist condescension into spoonfuls of sugar, the poem uses tax jargon to critique the value of gendered work. "Feminine decadence is the best and stickiest," but these poems are anything but frivolous. Slim yet ambitious, Stormwarning traces the tension between economic interests and environmental damage with dreadful realism. This matter-of-fact manner also applies to morality and is all the more condemning for Tómasdóttir's calm, self-deprecating delivery. We want to be—or at least to be seen as—good. We are at the mercy of the weather, which has no such concept. Destruction is on the horizon: we hope and fear for it. We continue. We "get the grills inside." One way or another, we will be satisfied.

Kristín Svava Tómasdóttir was born in Reykjavík and lives there today, though she also works at heritage sites around Iceland. A historian and an active contributor to Iceland's art and cultural scene, she is one of the writers behind the literary blog Druslubækur og doðrantar and has participated in various international poetry projects, including The Enemies Project, which paired writers from Iceland and the UK to create new works that were read in London, Reykjavík, and Stykkishólmur. Tómasdóttir's poems reflect a deep historical and folkloric foundation, even as—perhaps especially when—she engages with current affairs and media scandals. Her astute everyday style captures Icelandic quirks while positioning herself, poems, and places in a complex global context.

The full-length English-Icelandic bilingual edition of Stormwarning, translated by K.T. Billey, is forthcoming from Phoneme Media in 2017.

Click anywhere below to view the original Icelandic poems.

BUBBLY IN THE VULVA

And then this same reporter added insult to injury by saying:
… many have grown accustomed to toasting with "bubbly" … toasting with bubbly!
Probably the poor girl meant champagne or sparkling wine.

       –Eiður Svanberg Guðnason: former ambassador, grammarian blogger, Icelandic language authority

We drink bubbly in the Vulva
and put it on the business account
we let loose!
we order dominos

we get some
cheese
get some
chocolate
get some cinnamon candy and nutella
I stash sugar and bubbly in the toilet tank

girls I have this secret fantasy:
to lick a whole jar of peanut butter from the tense
tricep of Sportacus
and run him through with a whittled carrot

girls sooner or later
this lifestyle will be the death of us

let’s apply for a rebate
let’s think of our foremothers
bubbly and bread tarts

oops I put too much mayonnaise
the tart wobbles, about to fall
and how do we write-off hospitality?

enough hassle
enough stress
the plants have been watered today
the kids were woken up
the kids were put to bed
let’s apply for a rebate
everything doesn’t start again until tomorrow

women own one percent of the world’s wealth
we include in that
the bubbly and cinnamon

feminine decadence
is the best and stickiest

let’s get some more bubbly
bubbly in the Vulva

we love that stuff that junk that plastic
the stifling hot polyester crocodile costume
blinking christmas lights and fake flowers
we love that material world
these old videotapes
candy bar pinworms and wet asphalt
we’re loving this excess
loving this civilization and her primitive impulses
our conscience is not c(lean)
we’re hoping the world will be destroyed by flying sparks from the adapter

DO NOT

I would never go to any of these plebian entertainments
I would never impose a life like this upon children
I would never go by what others say just to please them
I would never park illegally in Sweden
I would never throw plastic bottles in the general garbage
I would never laugh at a child who locked themselves in the change room
I am just not that type
I would never again venture to buy a Czechoslovakian plane
I would never buy a windsucking horse (except as some kind of joke)
I would never dare pull a bitch move
a person should learn from experience
I would never do anything to hurt animals or force them to do things
I would never drink an entire bottle of red wine alone on a Tuesday night
I would never get relatives to co-sign
I would never resort to lies
I would never send a thoughtless email
I would never wear filthy socks from the laundry basket
some things are simply not options

yet there are all kinds of things happening
I do not want to include in my biography

STORMWARNING

The day tomorrow will be worse
but that does not mean that today is not bad.

       –Birta Líf Kristinsdóttir, meteorologist

Coldblue winter
endless night out the windows
the clothing piles are getting high
the light bulbs burst one after another
and I watch the dark take over the apartment

maybe it’s bold to let yourself dream about someone else’s waffle iron
but it’s cold in Reykjavík and my friends aren’t here
I read eulogies of people long dead
and tend to my melancholy like a precious plant

how could winter possibly come to an end?
why make the bed when you always need to sleep in it again?
why is it so difficult to keep the fish oil bottle from getting greasy and slick?

I have my body by the reins like a big bear
who doesn’t understand why he is not lying in a cave
my soul, sad-eyed packhorse, does not need reins; like the poem
she plods where she is expected

these days nothing is fresh
perception is fermented, dried and smoked
no new experiences
just tired memories

now and then flashes before the eyes
that which will never really happen:
sand on an empty sidewalk
morning sun and
photosynthesizedbliss in the chest

I am not fooled by reason
I throw denim jackets and runners on the bonfire

tie down the trampoline
tie down the roof sheets
get the grills inside