“What is fair trade?” is a poem by Bryndís Björgvinsdóttir from her first and so far only book of poetry, I Hate Everybody! (she’s since been busy writing some 3 books for children and teenagers). But what is fair trade? A trade of goods where nobody is exploited is the modern understanding of the term – but it can also mean simply a trade-off that is fair, a meaning that also appears in the poem. But this question is perhaps more relevant in the poem, because the term fair trade doesn’t really exist in Icelandic and therefore the poem uses the English version. And that lack of a word perhaps says something about our language.
But anyway, it starts thus:
The world is a bastard,
the offspring of East and West
This is the world view we see at the beginning – and after there’s a lovely image of racists avoiding the waves, since they of course come from abroad. The ultimate isolationists. The book was published in 2009, that bygone era just after the crash, when everything was going to hell yet everything felt possible. It was the first of a series of five tiny little books from now defunct publisher Nýhil, but sorry, this is only supposed to be about a single poem, not the whole book. So while the racists flee the waves the narrator sits and drinks coffee, as narrators tend to do. It’s fair-trade coffee and the narrator imagines the end of the world as fair trade, where we are punished for our inequality by ending like a little ugly coffee bean in a nearby black hole. Thereby the narrator respects the title of the book, to hate everybody – or at least imagines the destruction of everybody. Of course, that’s not terribly fair, to punish all for the sins of the few. But the narrator knows that sometimes you have to make tough calls, when it comes to reorganising the universe.
And as you ponder this narrator, sipping his coffee on an Icelandic beach, I recognise him. Of course, it’s the galactic villain Thaons working out his ideas for the restructuring of the universe. They’ve certainly developed a bit in the intervening years, but the idea is there, perhaps it was born just there, on the beach, where the racists fled the waves as a small bean of coffee ended it’s trip from Guatemala in Thanos’ stomach. The coffee been that was the seed of all this destruction.
Texti: Ásgeir H Ingólfsson