5 Things You Didn’t Know About Stephan G. Stephansson: The Rocky Mountain Poet

What is a poet? You may ask! In this lies a worthy task: It is a fire that slumbers deep within shallow embers.

Stephan G. Stephansson was a farmer and poet living in what is now Markerville, Alberta. He emigrated from Iceland to North America in the late 19th century and would spend his days farming and nights writing the poems and letters that would later make him famous. Here are five things you didn’t know about Stephan G. Stephansson.

Alberta Wasn’t his Original Destination

Alberta wasn’t Stephansson’s first destination. When he emigrated from Iceland in 1873 at the age of 19, with a group of Icelandic travellers, he was headed for Shawano County, Wisconsin. By 1879, Stephansson had changed locations again, this time, he had moved to Pembina County, North Dakota. It wasn’t until 1889 that Stephansson, with his wife, three small sons, his sister and her husband, moved to what is now Markerville, Alberta.

Stephansson House

Visit Stephan G. Stephansson’s house in summer. Learn more

He Wrote Almost Exclusively in Icelandic

Stephansson worked his land during the day and wrote prose by night. Suffering from insomnia, it’s no surprise that Stephansson would routinely write until sunrise. Writing almost exclusively in his first language Icelandic,his first language, he left most of his work to the skilled interpretation of translators.

There’s a Literary Award Named After Him

Considered the voice of the Icelandic immigrant community, Stephansson’s poetry expressed the alienation and loneliness felt by many who were no longer in their homeland or who felt distant because of their isolation in their new country, Canada. Considered to be Iceland’s greatest poet since the 13th century, Stephansson was an avid reader, pacifist and philosopher. By 1923, five volumes of his poems had been published with a sixth to come posthumously. The Writer’s Guild of Alberta established the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry in 1982.

He Was Openly Opposed to WWI and Icelandic Canadian Involvement

Stephansson’s Vigslooa [The Trail of War] is a collection of pacifist poems published in 1920. They detail his opposition to the Great War and reflect his political beliefs. Stephansson didn’t shy away from controversy: he supported the United Farmers of Alberta and flirted with Marxist views.

In Iceland, He’s Known as “Klettafjallaskadio”

Or, the Poet of the Rocky Mountains. Stephan G. Stephansson’s published works fill more than 2000 pages and he’s considered to be one of Canada’s most prolific poets. In 1976, the Albertan government declared his homestead in Markerville a provincial historic resource which you can visit today.

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