Nynorsk: Poetry

Basic Disclaimer: I am not a native speaker. I am using these posts as a way of chronicling a semi-auto-didactic process.  In other words, this is my way of seeing my own journey. I hope that others learn from it, and I hope that others contribute knowledge to it. To the Nynorsk activists out there, I apologise if a Bokmål word comes through as it is easier to find those words. Feel free to correct me in the comments, or by message.


Tea: The next day I go to the store, and what do I find? Lavender tea. Hell’s bells as the locals say. I will have to save it for a special day. Today is a herbal blend of ‘seven blossoms’. It is pretty all right: it tastes like delicious grass.

Song: Fabio & Liberace by Paul Thorn. It is a deep country song, but how many country songs does one know involving a drag queen?


I have been reading a lot of poetry, as always. I wanted to look into Nynorsk words for poetry, and guess what? Most poetry terms are taken from Latin, or French. They are therefore the same, or very similar throughout languages. ‘Verse’ becomes ‘vers‘, ‘poetry’ to ‘poesi’, and the like. I, therefore, have an idea:


7 forms of poetry used in Old Norse/Norwegian literature:

1. Málaháttr – This is going to be the most ‘conversational’ of traditional poetry. I like to think of it as the sonnet of Norwegian verse. It seems to be that of which everyone thinks when one hears ‘poesi‘.

2. Hyrnhenda– This is the courtly poetry. It is not the most formal, but it is far more formal than Málaháttr. I would compare it to the villanelle in the 19th century. Most poets of the time hated it viewing it as too formal.

3. Ljóðaháttr– This is the one that to my ear sounds as if it comes from a horror film. The creepy seiðkona in the corner chanting would be using this form. It morphed into a galdraháttr which means, ‘chanting meter’. Galdr is an oral type of magic, so the horror applications of this are boundless.

4. Dróttkvætt– This is the most courtly of the poetry forms with which I am familiar. I would compare this to the epic poem, or maybe the ode. It calls for a lot of rules to be followed, but still has some wiggle room. This is the one which I will attempt.

5. Skaldic – Notice how that is not italicised? We have stolen the term from Old Norse, so I have apprehension claiming that it is foreign. This form is a general term for oral poetry. Skalds were the bards of Old Norse poetry. If the poem is meant to be read aloud as opposed to read in court, it is probably skaldic. I find it interesting also that most skalds are known — I say most because I am sure that there is one which is unknown —.

6. Eddaic – Another stolen word. This is the other major category of poetry. Eddas are typically anonymous, and deal with grand schemes. This would be the equivalent of the Aeneid, or Metamorphoses.

7. Rímur – This is mainly used in Iceland, but my Nynorsk dictionary still defines it as a ‘form of poetry’. It is a smaller stanza — two to four lines — of alliterative verse. It also literally means ‘a rhyme’.


Those were all the forms I could find which were definitely Nynorsk-friendly, but still were not completely cognates. A few bonus words to even it out to ten though:


8. Dikt (neuter) eit dikt, diktet/ dikt, dikta. This is from the Old Norse word for poem, but according to the O-Wise-Internet, it is mainly used in Bokmål.

9. Kjærleik (masculine) ein kjærleik, kjærleiken/ kjærleikar, kjærleikane. This is ‘love’ the noun. One cannot discuss poetry without love.

10. Ark (neuter) eit ark, arket / ark, arka. This is paper. I am sure most writers — including me in this — use mainly computers, but this is still an important word to know for note-taking.


Other than that, I am looking forward to my new poetry books. I am going to reread them, and post reviews. I will get some new ones in next week. It seemed to please a lot of people — I actually received e-mails…I feel so legitimate now. Does this mean that I have to start editing more? —.


-J.A. Victor Wilson


Paul Thorn’s Twitter

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