Airwords at Airwaves

We’ve been to Iceland Airwaves a few times, but there had never been a literary component to the festival. I was really excited when someone forwarded me this article from Reykjavik’s English-language newspaper, The Grapevine.

Icelandic author and director Andri Snær Magnason planned an event “to bring together writers and musicians in a live setting, showcasing another side of the rich creative exchange happening at Airwaves this year.”

In preparation, I read most of his science fiction novel LoveStar on the plane ride over. It’s freaking beautiful. Made me feel like my writing is a beat up old pick up truck hauling stuff around while his is a fusion-powered Tesla. Which is kind of okay. Some days we need a pick up truck, some days we need a Tesla. There is room for all kinds of creative works.

The reading was great…but what really blew me away was the unexpectedly amazing visual art by Marcos Zotes. The words Andri was reading made fluid. Really beautiful.

am reads 2I enjoyed this reading but I’ll be frank, I find the atmosphere at Harpa, the enormous new concert hall, to be antithetical to what I’ve experienced in the past at Iceland Airwaves. When I fly 4000 miles to a tiny city on the top of the world, I expect a distinctly Reykjavik ambiance. This concert hall is lovely but could be anywhere.

Fortunately, I got what I was craving days later at an off-venue “poetry jam session”.

Daníel Bjarnason and Jófríður Ákadóttir (of Samaris and Pascal Pinon) accompany readings by writers associated with local grassroots poetry collective Meðgönguljóð as well as heavy-hitters Andri Snær and Ryan Boudinot.”

This was what I came for! This place was so off-venue it was actually closed when I arrived. I wandered back and forth, checking my phone, sure that a combination of jet lag and hangover had sent me to the exact opposite corner of the city. But no. Eventually I noticed a couple of Icelanders taping up an A4 size piece of paper to a window with a note written in ball point pen. I was in the right spot.

The tent-covered outdoor area was populated by friends and family. Andri Magnussen, to whom I’d awkwardly introduced myself after the Harpa reading, recognized me and we chatted briefly. He signed my Kindle.

AM_readsI also met Seattle author Ryan Boudinot, who read from his book Blueprints of the Afterlife. I might have been imagining it, but I think we both had a touch of the, “Oh my god, we’re in Iceland! WTF?”

rb_readsMusician Daníel Bjarnason somewhat bemusedly accompanied the readings on an electric keyboard. My favorite moment was when Ryan Boudinot turned to him and requested something that sounded like an angry glacier…then laughed and said this was probably the only place on the planet where someone might know what he meant!