Learning nynorsk through poetry and photography

A Voice from Norway brings the Norwegian language and landscape to life

sheep in the Norwegian landscape

Photo: Grethe Bjørdalsbakke
The photos of Grethe Bjørdalsbakke bring Ottar Løvsll’s poetry to life in A Voice from Norway, with scenes from the western Norway landscape, where both poet and photographer are at home.

A Voice from Norway is a newly published dual language collection of poetry illustrated with scenic photographs from the western part of Norway. The book is structured with poems  authored by Ottar Løvoll in nynorsk, with each verse translated into English and  presented side by side opposite of each other

Many of Løvoll’s ancestors emigrated to the United States more than 100 years ago, and their descendants continued their lives in the new country. His relatives and other Americans of Norwegian descent, often long to hear a voice from Norway. They enjoy listening to this voice in Norwegian, but the language has become more or less unaccessible to many, and poetry in a foreign language can be difficult to comprehend. This led to the idea that the poetic version of A Voice from Norway could be read and enjoyed by many in a side-by-side presentation of poetry in the Norwegian and English languages.

The 36-page book starts with the poem “On a Western Farm.” This is a representation of a typical farm that young men had to leave in search for a new life in North America. The descendants of these emigrants and the author of A Voice from Norway and all who hail from a small farm in western Norway share these same roots. Thousands of Americans share this same heritage.

Many of the poems are inspired by the natural scenery of the fjords and the mountains and  their effect on people in this rural social setting. The photos are from the Ørsta community where both the author and the photographer,  Grethe Bjørdalsbakke, live today. The translator, Torild Homstad, is based in Northfield, Minn.

The lyrics in A Voice from Norway also depict the daily chores on a small mountain farm where the author grew up. They describe the various farm tools and how they are used. The poetry also ventures into the life in the old town, sorrow and joy, glory, and what the eyes see during the seasons of the year, on the mountains and by the rivers. The lyrics explore the rivalry between the sun and the moon and venture into love and jealousy.

A Voice from Norway is an enriching experience for all curious lovers of poetry, especially for those who love Norway.

To learn more about A Voice from Norway, see store.bookbaby.com/book/A-Voice-from-Norway, or email einar.aec@gmail.com.


På vestlandsgard

Femten år på ein vestlandsgard

Eit arvegods frå ein oldefar

Femten år med så mange vende

dagane hadde ingen ende

Femten somrar på slåtteteigen

Femten vintrar på sledemeien

Femten haustar med spett og spade

alle steinane låg i rader

Åtte dagar ved møkkasleden

Åtte dagar med vinterveden

Åtte dagar bak åkerplogen

Åtte dagar i planteskogen

Femten år på ein vestlandsgard

Eit arvegods frå ein oldefar

Med spett, med spade

med ljå, med rive

Slik vart du bedda for heile livet

On a Western Farm

Fifteen years on a Western farm

An inheritance from a great-grandfather

Fifteen years with so many turns of the plow

days without end

Fifteen summers in the hayfields

Fifteen winters on the sleigh runners

Fifteen falls with crowbar and spade

all the stones lay in rows

Eight days hauling muck

Eight days hauling firewood

Eight days behind the plow

Eight days working in the woods

Fifteen years on a western farm

An inheritance from a great-grandfather

With crowbar, with spade

with scythe, with rake

Forms your whole life

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 3, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.