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BY JURIS GRANEY. Somehow it has come upon me, I’ve no fatherland; Though my heart with love is bounded With a lasting band To my native soil that blessed me, As a growing boy, When the world its shining glory Gave me hope and joy. … Even here the lingering twilight Warms the meadows green, Even here the streams meander Rolling hills between; Here the waves in lyric singing Break along the strand. Yet somehow it had come upon me I’ve no fatherland. (The first and last stanzas of The Exile ; English translation by Paul Sigurdson. ) When tourists think of Alberta, they think Canadian Rockies mega sites like Jasper and Banff, boot-scooting at the Calgary Stampede, and Edmonton’s vibrant and evergrowing summer festival scene. They probably don’t think of Icelandic poetry. Escaping Economic Desperation Wild Rose Country has a long history with Iceland. In particular, a man named Stephan G. Stephansson, regarded by some historians as the most prolific Icelandic poet since the 13th century. Known as “The Poet of the Rocky Mountains,” Stephansson’s story is not unlike those of many of the first migrants to swap the econo- mic desperation of Iceland in the 1880s for the inhospitable expanse of the Canadian Prairies. What makes Stephansson unique is that when farm implements were stored away for the evening, his children put to bed, Stephansson would sit down until the early hours of the morning. His inkwell and words lit by flickering candlelight, he would pen poems in Viking-age skaldic meters, detailing the hardships, successes and defeats of immigrant life in his new homeland. Wakeful Nights Of Stephan Stephansson’s prolific poetry production, there is no doubt. By the time the Icelander died from a massive heart attack on August 10, 1927, aged 73, he had compiled 2,000 pages of verse, some of which made its way into a six-volume tome titled Andvökur , or Wakeful Nights . That in itself is a masterpiece of persistence. But when you consider most of his poetry was written in scant free hours while eking out an existence on a sprawling farm in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, near the tiny town of Markerville, it’s clear Stephansson was not merely a poet. He was a restless renegade, a freethinker, a man who fought the Icelandic Lutheran Synod. He was a romantic, a homesteader, an Icelandic patriot and an anti-war activist. Stephansson grew up in a dilapidated single- room, dirt-floored covered hovel on a rented farm named Kirkjuhóll in Skagafjörður, North Iceland. Climbing debt forced Stephansson’s father Guðmundur, mother Guðbjörg and sister Sigurlaug to reconsider their future. Like so many families, that future was not in Iceland. Promise of a New Life The Stephanssons joined one of the first flotillas of Icelanders to flee starvation and crippling conditions engulfing the tiny island nation in the mid-1800s for a better life in North America. After more than 20 days of horrific conditions on a steamer, they arrived in Quebec City to little fanfare. A train ride took them to a steam- boat that would cross Lake Michigan to Wisconsin. In a tiny town at the foot of the Canadian Rockies, an Icelandic immigrant spent his sleepless nights writing immortal poetry. 48 Icelandair Stopover THE POET OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS

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