Poeming Kristin Lavransdatter: Ragnfrid
"Three Good Years"
Hello, Poetry Friend
My life just got a whole heckuva lot better. That’s because the fine folks at Close Reads HQ are reading the first book from Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter, The Wreath, with their Substack paid subscribers.
When I discovered Kristin in 2019, my reaction was similar to Buttercup’s “I will never love again,” except it was “I will never read again.” (To clarify, I did read again.) But I will never read fiction in the same way. Now please, permit me to swoon across my fainting couch and moan. Much like the friend who recommended the book to me. He was so moved he had no words. He just groaned.
As soon as I finished Kristin, I started rereading it. Four years later, I have not yet stopped. My bookmark moves to the end of this 1/128-page bad girl, then to the beginning, and so on, and on, and on, through my heart book.
In 2022 I read and poemed my way through the book with a group of women in Project Redux. So over the next many weeks I’ll be dropping in my Kristin poems. Some of them I have never shared.
That year was one of great change for me: a before and after. Going deep with these characters through poeming their narrative arcs helped me see my own a little more clearly. I knew I was changing. Poeming Ragnfrid and Lavrans and Ingeborg and Fru Aashild and Brother Edvin and Halfrid and Simon and Ramborg and Ulf and Eline and Erlend and, of course, Kristin, gave me courage to say yes. Please.
My first poem is for Ragnfrid, Kristin’s mother. She pours our her many sorrows to the northern lights. Early in chapter 3 of “Jorundgaard,” from The Wreath (aka Kristin book 1), the narrator tells us, “In this manner the people of Jorundgaard enjoyed three good years.”
Three good years, y’all. That’s it. I thought that was poem-worthy. And Ragnfrid’s name means “lovely goddess.”
An earlier version of this poem appeared at Project Redux.
Three Good Years And so we had three good years— Lavrans, Kristin, little Ulvhild, and I. Three good years when I was happy, when I could hug my children without constant fear of losing them like my three sons in the cradle. Three years when I could sleep with my husband, not stay out all night in the old loft, wringing my hands. They said I had the loveliest voice, but I cannot remember the last time I sang, And then came my brother, with his ox, Oh God, the blood! The beast won, the beast I drew to our home. Lavrans reached out his arms to me, but I screamed them away. Jesus, don't touch me! The priest said it would take a miracle. Brother Edvin said I should pray for a fearless heart. Fru Aashild made her own fortune. That night when she told dirty jokes, I knew who she was talking about. Lavrans didn't. Still doesn't. When my next daughter was born I could not even look at her, but I sent her the most lovely gifts, sang only while she slept. My only safe place is outside, in the green dark, under the northern lights, like some goddess who becomes beautiful only when alone and cold. –Megan Willome
Have you read Kristin Lavransdatter? A lot of people picked it up during the pandemic, when time unspooled. If not, it’s only 45 hours of your life on audio (which helps with the Norwegian names).
Okay then, what *are* you reading? Have you ever written a poem after finishing a book?
Seriously, it’s a fun practice. I don’t usually write dozens of poems after reading a book, as I did with Kristin, but every book I read gets at least its own haiku. (Check out my Goodreads.)
Write your own poem about a book that stuck with you. If you like, email me what you write.
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