Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir

- Iceland -

Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir was born in 1987 in Reykjavík, Iceland. She studied fine art at the Iceland University of the Arts and is a practising visual artist as well as a composer, musician, and singer. She co-founded the artist-led gallery Kunstschlager in Reykjavík and is a member of the electro-pop trio aiYa, as well as founder of the experimental poetry festival Suttungur. For her multidisciplinary poetry practice – which spans text, music, performance, visual art and film – Ásta was nominated for the Bernard Heidsieck Literary Prize by the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2021. She has also received the prestigious Ljóðstafur Jóns úr Vör poetry prize, awarded annually in Iceland for a single poem. Ásta’s debut poetry collection, Eilífðarnón, was published in Iceland in 2019 and subsequently published in Swedish, German, and English translations.

Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir is widely regarded as one of Iceland’s most innovative contemporary poets and performers. Over the past decade, she has been travelling the world staging poetry performances that blur comfortable delineations between poetry reading on the one hand and performance and visual art on the other. Her work exists in the interstices between different media and genres, and revels in the points of friction between expectation and reality. In addition to live poetry performances and readings, her literary works include librettos, bookworks, video installations, readings set to music, and a literary residency in a corner shop.


Ásta’s long-awaited debut collection, Eilífðarnón (Forevernoon), was published by Partus forlag in Reykjavík in 2019. Thematically, Eilífðarnón is organised as a kind of journey – what the mode of transport may be is unclear, but we are surely being moved along some inner (or perhaps celestial) landscape and there is a conductor, the sheriff, who appears to be steering the vessel. On the journey we move in various directions and through various dimensions that seem to cut through time and space. The book has mystical undertones, and uses images, metaphors, and symbols that are at once epic and intimate in scope. The language of the book is parred back almost to its nouns and verbs, but what results is a certain warmth and clarity as Ásta address the vulnerability of the body in its spiritual entanglement with the outside world. There is a lightness and freedom in these poems, whose lines leap around the page in search of connections, reminding us of things we’d forgotten to remember – that ‘the mind is a net in the ocean,’ that ‘moonlight is milk for nightcats.’


Writing of the book, author Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl said that: ‘in the pack of Icelandic poets, Ásta is the ace of spades [... and] Eilífðarnón is an instant-classic of the Icelandic avant-garde.’ In 2021, the book was published in Swedish translation by Rámus förlag; and in 2022 in English by Partus Press (UK) and in German by Elif Verlag. Excerpts from the English translation were published in The Stinging Fly, Oxford Poetry, and Two Lines. In a review of the book in the Swedish newspaper Expressen, Ásta was said to ‘light up the sky with her explosive poetry.’


In an interview with the Icelandic National Radio’s online news outlet, Ásta described her debut as being ‘partly about an understanding of existence and time – traps, keys, and waymarkers for thoughts. It is about the art of existing when it’s easy to fall into the trap of being forked, being someone who is stuck in the past or in the future. Forever is one understanding of time and forevernoon is a full stop, at once deception and truth. Maybe a place between sleeping and waking.’


The transfer of words from one mind to another, whether verbal or textual, is an act that most of us take for granted but that Ásta treats as a quasi-spiritual ceremony, a stage on which, as she says, the ‘dreamlike structure’ of the poem can be explored in order to ‘reveal the hidden and chaotic knowledge of the text.’


– Vala Thorodds & Luke Allan