Book Review: The Nordic Light

The Nordic Light is a collection of poetry accompanied by photography, a seldom used combination, but a very impactful and much needed one. All of the poems in this book are contributions from historic or prominent Norwegian poets, with the exception of one Danish and one Finnish poet. The book has been published by Natur Og Kultur Forlaget AS (Nature and Culture Publishing House), Norway; ISBN 978-82-91-50224-3.

Celebrating the much awaited descent of light, poet Ailo Gaup (1944-) writes:

“I feel the Earth’s axis tilt.
I can see the sun again.
I sing a Sami song.”

Norway and other Nordic countries, being close to the Arctic, are known for their long dark winters and snow temperatures. In that respect, this book’s title, The Nordic Light, is an invitation to enter a very personal space inside the emotions and perceptions of Norwegian poets and philosophers to understand how they yearn for the seemingly less generous light of nature. The poems in this volume de-construct our dichotomous notions of light, which is the presence or absence of it.

The Nordic light encompasses the light of the sun, the moon and aurora borealis (also known as the northern lights). Even aurora borealis is a spectrum of light, highlighting nature’s unrestricted affair with northern landscapes, as the poets reveal. Further, even darkness in its vast stretches possesses light, and it is this long concealed secret that these poets unlock. The blurb of the book explains:

“Over the years, the special light up here in the north has inspired countless artists to depict the landscape. This is our contribution.”

What follows from page after page in each of these poems is a revelation of the understated, undiscovered and intimate relationship of the earth’s north with the sun. It is a giant-scaled interaction with the sun, the symbol of hope and joy, in many disguises. Caught up in this ever-going interaction are these poets who capture and celebrate this drama, as Jan Magnus Bruheim (1914-1988) writes:

“On frost-green sky over mountain peaks,
play tongues of fire.
Night of yearning.
Aurora night…”

The lasting message of this book is that any colour and form of nature that gives out warmth is also light. Hence, even in the deepest of dark, light is never lost. Humans too possess warmth and love, the essence of light, which is so long sought for in this white, round-shaped crown of the earth. Kolbein Falkeid (1933-) leaves this message for us in his poem through the following lines:

“Friends are few and far between…
Friends are like lights from distant houses
in the wilderness’s cavernous night…”

With a very simplistic writing style used in all of these poems, accompanied by photographs, this book will be an ice-breaker for readers who usually find poetry as complex and unattractive. On a final note, this book should also be seen as an illustrated example of why we should invest more efforts to protect and respect our beautiful planet.

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Sumeet Grover

Sumeet Grover is the founder of Global Poetry, dedicated to creativity, human dignity, dialogue and global citizenship. He is a winner of the Portico Brotherton Open Poetry Prize 2014 and was shortlisted for the Jane Martin Poetry Prize in 2014 & 2015. He has authored three books of poetry: Signals (2017), House Arrest & Disobedience (2015) and Change (2011). Grover is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment.

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