Rhyme-off of off-rhyme

Moon, wrist in Iceland(ic)

Moon rising behind Mt. Esja, Iceland, 30 November 2012

On the eve of my first Að landa post, the sky over Reykjavík plunged from pink to indigo when the last light dwindled near 17:30. Jupiter rose in the north as I set up my tripod, charged my camera battery. Holding a wrist near eye level to block the city lights, I scanned the horizon above Mount Esja for hints of moonlight.

Nicolas Billon taught me the wrist trick during his first visit to Iceland in October. I’d been curious to meet him, a fellow Canadian who'd authored Iceland. And so we found ourselves at Stykkishólmur’s Library of Water. New moon. Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl and I had just finished a poetry performance; we gathered outside of the library to stare at northern lights, partly obscured by high, thin clouds. Nicolas raised his wrist and coaxed us to follow his lead. With the electric harbour lights of Stykkishólmur blocked, we could see the aurora. 

A few years ago, Eiríkur had written for The Reykjavík Grapevine about a poetry face-off involving the Icelandic word for moon. 

“The most famous duel of all times was that between Kolbeinn Jöklaskáld (a 17th century poet) and the Devil himself. Kolbeinn poetried the devil back to hell by rhyming the word ‘tungl’ (moon)— our ‘orange’ (unrhymable word)— with ‘ungl’ or ‘úln’: a variation on the word for ‘wrist’— this is all highly dubious, not really words and not even really rhymes, but the Devil always being one to promote the avant-garde, readily agreed and cleared off to hell.”

Eiríkur’s article was later published in a collection of his poetry essays called Booby, Be Quiet! (Poesia Helsinki, 2011).

Duel. Wrist. Moon.

With ‘moon’ and ‘wrist’ positioned near each other through Icelandic off-rhyme rhyme-off, I watched the full-to-waning frost moon surge over Mount Esja at 18:03— Reykjavík’s lights blocked by wrist. My camera set, I snapped the moon’s ascent as it lifted from mountaintop to slip behind low snow-cloud cover. Moon, wrist, frost, click. Tungl. Tunga, tongue: a tip.