Heading South from Disko Island

When writer Stinne Storm came home to her native Copenhagen after a year away in Greenland, a set of poems emerged that engaged with themes of return, the receding Arctic and the storm tides of grief and loss in the ailing Anthropocene. 
Is a poet and translator writing in Danish and English. Among her translations are writings of Agnes Martin, Edith Södergran and Paula Gunn Allen. Devoted to the labour of crafting a feminine land ethic and fascinated by the deep imagination of desert landscapes, she spent a year on Disko Island (Qeqertarsuaq), Baffin Bay, Greenland.
From Disko Bay to Copenhagen is a south-easterly journey of about 2000 miles and 14 degrees of latitude (from 69N to 55N), from a mean average temperature of -3C to one of 9C. These geographical metrics however, are wholly inadequate to calibrate the scope of the psyche’s journey across that vast space, for the sensory and imaginal range encountered, the traffic of memory and dream traversed. For these inner responses to come to light and find form one needs the singing heart of a poet.

With my recent homecoming to this city after a year away in Greenland a suite of poems emerged that engages with the clashing landscapes of ice and bog, the contrasts of frozen volcanic peaks and the damp green flatlands. Across these flowing landscapes a rupture opens, unseamed, from which new and inner forms spill outwards in English, in Danish, in Greenlandic and Inuit. Memories of older layers, intergenerationally bent around the insights of a moment, ring out in scalding pain, or in a flash of humour, registering metaphors from the plant and animal realms, from personal history to political inheritance, via ancient snails and the rhizome matt of dune grasses.

In these poems I wanted to ask how we might shape and speak of a future that sustains beauty and life and how, through a new realisation of grief and love, we can persist through the volatile changes we are deeply involved in both in the microcosm of our own immediate concerns and in the vaster skies of Earth changes, ecosystem collapse and the sharp perils of the Anthropocene.

Here I hope to offer a flavour of the emerging body of a larger work. ‘Volur’ and ‘White Fire’ become an expression of the feminine land ethic which I  strive to wrestle into form. Both contain that tension between human the Other that pulls on the imagination through time and space.

In the spirit of wise poetic asymmetry ‘Sailor’ emerges exactly the other way round a breech birth arriving psychologically feet-first. First the human and specific, the relational and memory-soaked, then a gradual broadening out to meet the greater world of creatures and other forms.

Together they are a short set of reflections on my return to Denmark, post-Arctic melodies, minor key lament-lullabies for all that has been lost to time and modernity. By turns tender and bittersweet.

In the final analysis, the poems are all love songs. Love songs to the anguished soul, love letters to the impossibly beautiful, stubbornly persisting world, bringing utterance to its own edge where all that can be said, all that is necessary, is to find breath to whisper: ‘I love, I love, I love’


white fire


niece has grown 

 

she waddles ahead stretching out arms for balance, talks a gibberish language with two words in recognisable danish: 

no and more 

 

puts her face really really close to mine and frowns, cocking her head. 

i believe she’s pondering what is wrong with me 

– but she likes to sit on my arm and share all her food with me 

perhaps she sees my hunger 

 

my brother took us for a weekend trip to commune de fanø, waden sea 

– the wide shallow surf shines as mercury messages, white fire. 

i believe he has missed me and tries to treat me with a wild danish landscape: 

drifting sand, dunes & lyme grass. such delicate light catchers 

i love, i love, i love 

 

before, the inuits would weave it, the icelanders eat it. 

all the way to nunavut it grows

stretching out our complicated family rhizome
harvesting and processing methods were like those of other traditional seeds: 

to be beaten and beaten and beaten as the soul’s approach to come into one’s own 

freeing the sweetness inside by mimicking nature 

i love, i love, i love 

 

the fox’s route must be through this backyard

i see it every day – if it can keep its wildness in this place 

i should be able to: 

exchange the arctic silence for european interstate proximity 

the man from a previous online dating reached out to me: 

when are you back home?
several times 

the danish word is hjem, the inuit inigisaq 

he says he’s landed on his feet 

after his divorce now – i asked him 

what he’s reading these days 

the news he replied 

 

common grasses:

grow along the interstate

sees covering all moist, wet or liquids surfaces

seed fill the air, you find them:

in your food, clothes & bed

 

annelgræs (puccinellia)

bunke (deschampsia)

enghavre (helictotrichon)

hjertegræs (briza)

havre (avena)

hejre (bromus)

rævehale (alopecurus)

sødgræs (glyceria)

will embellish

with their zealous

shapes of life:

ripening on tender

stems among a mix of species

bowing down in thick breezes 

of heavy air. you:

eat them,

wear them,

sleep with them



vǫlur


ah yes, this land. a swollen wound turned away towards shade, in early mornings:  

sliding molluscs shine with moist 

 

water evaporates from the earth rising up the subsoil. all growth gives off steam 

the underworld brews fog, licking up your bones. slowing your thoughts 

–i love, i love, i love 

 

strange bog birds talk & talk at you, no longer recalling their language you cover your head, making hands lace:  

still, they circle, flocks of accusations & disappointments there are too many to make out, your satyr blinks amused: how’s losing one’s way not delicious? 

 

satyrs (old norse sutr), figuring in the völuspá, are spoken 

into presence by the völva (old norse vǫlur) 

 

sutr ferr sunnan með sviga lævo: skinn af sverði sól valvita 

 

–that ‘stone speaks clash’, ‘warriors tread the path of hell’
heavens will break apart, be consumed in flames

yet a new world rises from water, fertile and teeming with life 

i believe she is right, all is of water 

 

whereas volva (womb in latin) is a genus of sea snails 

cowry allies or ovulids marine molluscs in the family 

ovulidae, vulva shaped. all is from water 

 

nights are lavishly audible: 

the wood nymphs sing your blood draws at dreams 

bleeds stories of victories that will follow defeats 



sailor


she asked me about the abuse twenty years ago 

by now or more. i said beating & kicked in the head

as i went down concussion, internal bleeding in eyes 

then she went on to say that i likely have had 

brain injury, permanently 

 

somehow satisfaction shone through her concern, even brought slight colour to her cheeks

 

i didn’t tell her i read a pandemic article on the hidden trauma of female lives damaged by violence, understudied: no data on cognitive

difficulties or other physical explanation for slowing down or failing completely 

whereas substantial research is done on men, in professions where they typically sustain injuries

 

i didn’t tell her how my heart is breaking in new ways 

for women in lockdown of male rage the repetition, flaring up 

the stickiness of pain 

– what smoulders 

recalling their happy voices while falling asleep on sofas as they discussed & planned 

kvindekamp er klassekamp

(women’s struggle is class struggle) 

i believed them. i believed they stayed up late changing the world no idea why or into what 

it was already playful & pleasure 

–mothers make magic 

 

took me days before i revisited our conversation 

she pissed me off, asking me out for coffee & delve 

my frayed youth, uninvited:

blemished the bright sweet sunshine

pollen floating in air 

urban bumblebees’ blessing 

almost repealing

the cityscape in me. 

that semenish fragrance

from the flowering linden trees 

 

she’s letting me pay, though 

she’s the one pouting really:

does not grow old 

or irrelevant gracefully

so, she comes down on my weakest points

–these days she gropes back far in time 

where her love for my dead mother 

lives

she should have told her: 

all love wants to be told.

 

realised this bedroom is a 

ship’s cabin

 

how could i not see this before?

 

the aqisseq1 amulet is up on the wall, so is amma syncletica2 my favourite redstocking 

on the nightstand is chubby ganesha 

(i have guilt about that figurine friend: plastic without having to be) & the niece’s gift: 

a wooden puzzle piece flamingo 

 

dancing, dancing 

 

FOOTNOTES TO ‘SAILOR’

1. Aqisseq is the Greenlandic name for an Arctic ptarmigan. believed to hold protective powers

2. Amma Syncletica was a fourth century Christian saint and Desert Mother from Roman Egypt

 

Dark Mountain: Issue 21

Our Spring 2022 issue is an anthology of non-fiction, fiction, poetry and artwork that revolves around the theme of confluence

 

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