Sanna Hartnor

- Sweden -

Sanna Hartnor, born 1986, lives and works in Malmö. Apart from being a poet, she currently works as a writer and with music and stage performances. Her first poems were published in the anthology Mot denna sol: Blå Blixt (Towards this Sun: Blue Flash) – and the following year she made her debut with Hamnen (The Harbour). The collection is a tragic and humorous piece of work situated in the specific context of Malmö – an old working class city, then famous for its shipyard, now gentrified and transformed beyond recognition.


2015 Hamnen was nominated to the Katapult Prize, the Swedish writers union award for the best debut of the year

Dead, somehow spiritual


Sanna Hartnor, born 1986, lives and works in Malmö – the third biggest city in Sweden. Asides from being a poet Hartnor works with music and stage preformances. Her first poems were published in the anthology Mot denna sol: Blå Blixt in 2013 and the following year her solo debut Hamnen (the Harbour) was published by Brombergs. The Harbour was nominated for Katapultpriset – a prize awarded by The Swedish Writers' Union for the best debut of the past year. Hartnor has also contributed to a number of anthologies and magazines, among them OEI editör and 10-tal.


The Harbour is both tragic and tragicomic. It is deeply rooted in the city of Malmö and more specifically in its harbor area – today turned upside down as a result of gentrification. Before the recent overhaul it had the Kockum shipyard as its landmark but today the 190 meter high “Turning Torso” – a postmodern creation by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatravas – dominates the scene.


Ironically enough it is the municipality of Malmö who themselves put it best with unintentional hilarity on their website: “The Western Harbor has gone through big changes the last decades. From being an industrial area on the decline, the Wester Harbor is today an attractive seaside district with a sustainable way of thinking”.


This kind of public salesmanship is the foundation of Hartnor's book. That way of thinking, the language and the ideology, is what her poems are about – and against. Her collection of poems are told through the architect, through the members of the housing society and through the “freelance”, the “real estate agent”, the “engineer” and the “city planner”. They are also told through the dead things that surround them – the “plaster” and the “house”. Dead, yes, but also somehow spiritual.


some houses wake up slowly

after people have started to scratch and tear

in the parquet flooring

they are a bit larger then

they have had all night to exhale

they hold more and allow more

around six-six thirty and

get more cautious

as the day passes


there were no such houses on the glacier

the houses there never fell asleep

when the residents woke up the walls stood

with their eyes wide open



they had been waiting for hours

the doors tramped in their frames


Critical towards civilization, no doubt, but even more a critique of modernity, escalating growth, rationalism and capitalism. Maybe it is also possible to talk about her poems expressing the alienation of man? Both people and things lack, and sometimes mourn, their relation to nature, tradition and history. In one of her poems the architect fret about not being able to control the darkness, about the night which “came and went as it pleased”. In another poem the same architect tries to turn dogs into props.


To consider The Harbour only as an opinion piece, a pamphlet or a diatribe would be wrong. Hartnor herself considers her collection an investigation, a survey of a place tinged with melancholy. “Who lives here?”, she asks in an interview in the local newspaper Sydsvenska Dagbladet, “Why do they want to stay so close to the border of the uncontrollable ocean, even though they are people who can control so much of their lives? I think that people who chose to live in these places want to minimize their subjection to chance”.


But neither melancholy, loss, dehumanization or critique of modernity is the lasting impression of The Harbour. In almost every poem there is a seed of Resistance. In the voids and hollows, in the cracks in the walls, in nature, in the different forms of water, in the dreams and in the uncontrollable there is a revolt brewing. The last words are therefore granted the plumber:



lines that looked like lines

were really

heating cables

the water's way through the walls


the heating cables' way

through the ground

were really

lines in the plumber's dreams


the lifeline in

the plumber’s hand

was really

a sun

a horse

a house

Patrik Tornéus