Filmpoem: Sonatorrek (Loss of Sons)

This is Alastair Cook‘s incredible Filmpoem of John Glenday’s ‘The Lost Boy’, a poem after Egill Skallagrímsson’s Sonatorrek.

Egill’s tenth-century piece is lyrical, confessional and personal. The dynamic of Sonatorrek is based on the notion of sacrifice: poetry is seen as a form of recompense for the loss of Egill’s sons, who are symbolically imagined as a sacrifice to Óðinn. The poem grapples with the disruption of the natural order of things, developing a framework of associations between disparate elements of nature, myth, the psyche, poetry, the metaphorical and the literal, in order to produce a kind of imaginative balance: to create, as it were, a sense of poetic justice out of the seemingly unjust trauma of loss.

In ‘The Lost Boy’, John Glenday adopts the compulsive feel of Egill’s terse metre, drawing on the themes and imagery of Sonatorrek to convey the story of his uncle, who was killed at the Battle of the Sambre in November 1918.

Modern poets on Viking poetry: readings!


selected poets will read their responses to skaldic verse as part of the cultural translation project Modern Poets on Viking Poetry

these events are FREE and ALL ARE WELCOME

Cambridge ~ Friday 26 April, 7 for 7.30pm

Judith E Wilson Drama Studio, Faculty of English, 9 West Road, CB3 9DP

featuring: John Canfield, Nia Davies, Lucy Hamilton, Pen Kease, Jane Monson, Okey Nzelu, Rebecca Perry, Anna Robinson, Colette Sensier, Lavinia Singer, Chrissy Williams


London ~ Tuesday 30 April, 7.30pm

Gallery Café, St Margaret’s House, Bethnal Green, E2 9PL

featuring: John Clegg, Peter Daniels, John Grant, Emma Hammond, Emma Harding, Dorothy Lehane, Rachel Piercey, Meghan Purvis, Andrew Smardon, Joseph Turrent, Kate Wise


Orri Tomasson will also read some of the original texts in Old Norse

for further information contact Debbie Potts at or 01223 767310

Poetry Workshop: Kennings, objects, images



Lucy Hamilton & Jane Monson

Saturday 6 & Sunday 7 April 2013

11am-6pm (1pm-4pm lunch break)

free and open to all

Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, University of Cambridge

Whale-road, horse of the sea, battle-flame, mead of Odin…kennings are compact, surreal, riddle-like phrases peculiar to Viking and Anglo-Saxon verse. The Department of ASNC warmly invites you to join us for one of two creative writing workshops where we will use kennings as a basis for thinking about the way we represent our modern day experience of the world in poetry. We are delighted to have the poets Lucy Hamilton and Jane Monson running the workshops.

Morning sessions will be from 11am to 1pm, followed by an afternoon feedback session from 4pm to 6pm (the generous lunch break will give you an opportunity to work on your writing before the feedback session; Lucy and Jane will be on hand during this time to answer any questions). Attendees are also invited to bring along some of their old poems to rework in the light of kennings. The workshops will take place in the ASNC common room, on the second floor of the English Faculty – you can find a map here:,+Norse+and+Celtic

The workshops are free and open to all members of the public as part of Kennings in the Community, a cultural engagement project based in the Department of ASNC. There are limited places available on each day so you are advised to book in advance by contacting Debbie Potts at or calling 01223 767310.

Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, Faculty of English, 9 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DP.

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Call for poets!


The Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic (ASNC), University of Cambridge, is offering poets an exciting opportunity to get involved in the cultural translation project Modern Poets on Viking Poetry as part of an Arts and Humanities Research Council pilot scheme.

Skaldic poetry encompasses particular types of verse composed in Old Norse (medieval Scandinavian) from the ninth to fourteenth century. It is often characterised by its complex metrical structures, its riddling syntax, and the liberal application of a distinctive type of metaphor known as the kenning. The wonderful richness of wordplay, imagery, ambiguity and irony at play in skaldic poetry has a great deal to offer poets composing in other cultural contexts.

The project Modern Poets on Viking Poetry aims to cultivate contemporary poets’ awareness of the skaldic aesthetic, nurturing a dialogue between academic research and modern poetic practice. Participating poets will be encouraged to creatively interact with skaldic tradition through the collaborative, cultural translation of skaldic poetry.

The project’s modus operandi will be as follows:

–       Skaldic scholars will provide basic translations and commentaries on verses or poems related to their area of research. The commentaries will provide a general sense of context and offer the scholars’ personal, idiosyncratic insights into the poetry.

–       The commentaries and translations will be allocated to participating poets who will be invited to create a cultural translation, interpretation or response. Poets will have complete freedom in the way they engage with the verse; they might produce anything from a poem that seeks to replicate the phonic patterns of skaldic metre to a multimedia art-piece (We are hoping for at least one response corresponding to the latter!).

–       As an important part of the project’s purpose is to create a dialogue, poets will be put in email contact with scholars, enabling them to discuss aspects of the poetry they are working with.

–       Selected translations/responses will be published in an edition on this site. It is possible that future funding will be obtained for a print publication.

–       Two events will take place at the end of April in Cambridge and London, where poets will be invited to read/perform their cultural translations. Funding is available for the reimbursement of travel fares.


Translations and commentaries will be sent to participating poets in the week commencing March 4th 2013. We ask that poets submit their cultural translations by April 8th 2013 if they would like to be considered for publication.

Poets are warmly invited to get involved in what we believe will turn out to be a fascinating and extremely rewarding project. No prior knowledge of skaldic poetry or Old Norse is required, just curiosity and enthusiasm! If you’re keen to participate, leave a reply or email Debbie Potts and we’ll be in touch.