Stephan G. Stephansson - Icelandic Canadian Poet

Stephan G. StephanssonIcelandic-Canadian poet Stephan G. Stephansson was born in the Skagafjörður district of Northern Iceland on October 3rd, 1853. In 1873, Stephansson and his family immigrated to North America—first homesteading in Shawano County, Wisconsin, then in Pembina County, North Dakota in 1879. In 1889, Stephansson moved with his wife, three young sons, his mother, and his sister and her husband to the Markerville district of Alberta.

A hard-working farmer and community leader, Stephansson served the community in many ways. Among the founders and builders of the first school in the Markerville district, he was also secretary of the Markerville Creamery (the economic hub of Markerville) and Justice of the Peace. Stephansson was a progressive farmer, who experimented with growing grain. Along with providing for his wife and eight children, Stephansson wrote over 2300 pages of poetry and over 1700 pages of letters, essays, articles, and short stories. A sufferer of insomnia, Stephansson farmed by day and wrote by night.

Stephansson wrote almost entirely in Icelandic—leaving his frank, descriptive, and lyrical works to the skills of translators. Stephansson’s writing expressed his pride and admiration for both his mother country and his foster-land. The immigrant experience, landscape, community, and human ambition and progress were among his literary topics. As a pacifist and atheist, perhaps in his later years an agnostic, Stephansson's views on war and religion were also communicated in his writings.

Stephansson’s collection of poems entitled Andvökur (Wakeful Nights) was published in six volumes—the first five during his lifetime. In 1917, various Icelandic societies and individuals invited 63-year-old Stephansson back to Iceland, where he spent the summer on a speaking tour. During his travels, Stephansson wrote a number of significant poems, letters, and addresses.

Icelandic literary scholars considered Stephansson one of the major poets of North America. References include the essays “Canada’s Leading Poet” by Watson Kirkconnell and “The Greatest Poet of the Western World” by F. Stanton Cawley. A considerable body of work regarding Stephansson’s legacy exists in the form of essays and press announcements, and in a biography written by Icelandic scholar Viðar Hreinsson.

Stephansson passed away on August 10th, 1927, and was interred in the family cemetery near his homestead where family and friends erected a cairn at his gravesite. In 1951, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada erected a monument in Stephansson Park at Markerville. In 1953, a monument to Stephansson was erected at his birthplace at Skagafjörður, Iceland. On August 7th, 1982, Stephansson House, the poet's restored farmhouse, was opened to the public as an Alberta historic site. In 2003, a monument was erected for Stephansson at his homestead near Mountain, North Dakota. In 1982, the Writers Guild of Alberta established the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry—an annual prize created to help preserve Stephansson’s legacy.

This web page has been established by Fundacion Queretaro, a non-profit organization, for easy, general reference to the works and philosophy of Stephan G. Stephansson.


Icelandic TV Series #9, September 2014. Filmed April 2013

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