In the work of writers in 1930s Denmark connected to the arts journal Linien – such as Hulda Lütken and Bodil Bech – the power and expressivity, the new, demanding ego that was given voice in Södergran’s writing, first made its mark. In their writings, inspiration from Södergran is seen as an intense provocation of the traditional late-Romantic verse language and poetic fixtures.It is tempting to say that the Södergran influence takes their writing to the verge of breakdown, whereas the third woman poet of the 1930s, Tove Meyer, lives and writes for long enough to accomplish the difficult manoeuvre out of late-Romanticism and into a new modernist style.
On the threshold to the twentieth century, the doors to the world stood open. At last the individual had the prospect of liberation from the restrictive bindings of religion, class, and gender. With the new world picture as its mental sounding board, the new century opened up for a progressive process of integration.Women and ordinary people gained access to bourgeois written culture, and they then of course made their mark on this culture.While male writers and scientists were shoring up their threatened masculinity by categorising “Woman” under “primordial Nature”, the women were surely and steadily gaining ground in the men’s bastions of power.
A single woman, Arnfríður Jónatansdóttir, ought to be counted among the modernist group of Icelandic writers known as the Atom Poets. Her poems display the same characteristics: they are written in free form, in a concentrated language, and she makes free use of imagery.Before the emergence of the Atom Poets numerous other poets had straddled the divide between tradition and innovation, and many female poets had merged the old and the new in their poetry. This holds true of authors such as Sigríður Einars frá Munaðarnesi and Halldóra B. Björnsson. But the positioning of them, within Icelandic literary history is not a straightforward matter, and this problem illustrates their poetic conflicts.It is as though they are, themselves, in doubt about their position; they want to prove themselves within a tradition to which they do not, in fact, belong, and they are at the same time filled with enthusiasm for the free-form poetry. They gave themselves whole-heartedly to the new, liberated poetry after having demonstrated, in their debuts, their mastery of the traditional craft – rhyming, alliterative poems in a strict, rhythmical form.
It was a feeling of sorrow and hopelessness that led the actress Johanne Luise Heiberg to start writing her memoirs in 1855, at the age of forty-two: Et Liv gjenoplevet i Erindringen (A Life Relived in Memory). The most highly-acclaimed Danish actress of the Romantic Age, she had become a myth in her own lifetime. But the demand for greater realism on stage gradually began to signal a new era.In her four-volume memoirs, the desire for clarification also becomes a construal in words, highlighting and illuminating those parts of the personal story needed to create the lasting monument to her life and art. A description of a life seen through sharply selective eyes. To glorify and preserve – and also to understand – that which had been, her own ephemeral art.
While the new women’s movement in the course of the 1970s brought the reader out and made her a writer, confessor, or debater in a large-scale discourse on life as a woman and gender roles, the women and men of the 1980s literary community formulated the relationship between reader and writer in other terms. The scene changed quickly and dramatically: experience and conversation were no longer at the centre; exploration and aesthetics had supplanted them.A new professionalisation of literature took place, and the young, well-educated readers were not looking for answers or validation in literature but rather experiences, temptation, beauty, and insight. And they flocked around the young poets at the well-illuminated cafés that soon replaced the old pubs and watering holes.