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Travel Iceland & Greenland

The Art of Haying

A Journey to Iceland

by (author) Harold Rhenisch

Ekstasis Editions
Initial publish date
Oct 2015
Iceland & Greenland
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2015
    List Price

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When Harold and Diane Rhenisch went to Iceland in 2010, Harold had just returned from a pilgrimage on the via regia, the 1000-year-old “King’s Way” through East Germany. Diane sat on her bed the next night on Iceland’s south coast and announced that she was staying there forever. Harold agreed that he wanted to stay, too. This book came from that trip — a love story set within the bond between Icelanders, their sheep and their horses. Harold soon learns to give up the books he loves for Icelandic nature and people. And trolls. The pair drive down all kinds of impossible roads to meet the local trolls. Trolls, Harold notes, keep humans because humans keep sheep, and trolls like sheep. So does Harold. At first, he is troubled by this. Then he learns to laugh. The Art of Haying follows our couple on three trips of renewed love to Iceland, in summer, winter and spring. As Harold trudges after Diane to an enchanted cave on Iceland’s eastern shore, he sees her as a different woman than he has ever known before. He has the smarts not to let her out of his sight. He is soon happily unravelling the threads of his language, English, until he begins to describe it as Icelandic with a bad accent and a lot of stolen words. As the two enchanted travellers dive into knitting shops and walk out with herds of sheep in the rain, Harold begins to describe how the knitting traditions of iceland translate sheep wandering across the Icelandic Highlands in skeins of rain into the special kind of love charm called the Icelandic Sweater, knitted by Icelandic women to keep their men and children warm in the cold. Harold chats with ravens in the north, and is eyed by others as they skip along a canyon rim in a snow-bound fjord in the East, waiting for him to stumble and become lunch. After a month as writer in residence at Skriduklaustur, writing about the modern sagas of the Icelandic writer Gunnar Gunnarsson, he adopts Gunnarsson’s blend of poetry, fiction and nonfiction as his own. The result is a love story for Iceland and story telling, both ancient and for a new age of the world in which books are less vital than a visual and spiritual feast of experience, nature, art and creativity: in other words, Iceland. Then the horses come, and Harold goes out to them. He does not come back.

About the author

Harold Rhenisch is an award-winning poet, critic, and cultural commentator. His awards include the Confederation Poetry Prize in 1991 and the BC #38: Yukon Community Newspapers Association Award for Best Arts and Culture Writing in 1996. He is a seven-time runner-up for the CBC/Tilden/Saturday Night Literary Contest. In 2005, he won the ARC Magazine Critics Desk Award for best long poetry review and the Malahat Review Long Poem Prize for "Abandon." He won this prize again in 2007 for "The Bone Yard." His non-fiction book Tom Thomson's Shack was short-listed for two BC Book Prizes in 2000. For its sequel, The Wolves at Evelyn, he won the 2007 George Ryga Award for Social Responsibility in Literature. He is the author of 32 books of poetry, fiction, biography and essays and choreographed Richard Rathwell’s Human Nation for the paper stage. Along with the Norwegian Olav Hauge, he is one of the two poets in the world who learned to write and edit poems by pruning fruit trees, an experience documented in his The Tree Whisperer (Gaspereau, 2021). A direct heir of Bertolt Brecht’s theater, through the dissident playwright and novelist Stefan Schütz, whose radio play Peyote he translated and published, he has invented a theatrical set of cross-genre literary interventions. He has secretly edited and mentored over a hundred writers in the hinterlands of Canada unserved by its university and publishing system and is currently writing a transcultural natural history curriculum and a history of British Columbia centred in the Indian Wars of the American West.

Harold Rhenisch's profile page

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