With that thankfully facetious introductory quote (from the “Capitalist Realism Manifesto“), Andri Snær Magnason begins a slim volume of poetry with a structure inspired simultaneously by Dante’s Inferno and the departments of a grocery store.
Bónus Poetry has a bright yellow cover featuring a drunken-looking pig that also happens to be the logo of Bónus, a chain of supermarkets in Iceland that published the book and sold it in a rack at the checkout counter. More surprising than that is the book’s content: really accessible poems that are sometimes funny, sometimes serious, and often conflicted about consumerism and capitalism.
When my friends and I arrived in Iceland in September 2019, the first thing we did was look for a grocery store. Fresh off the plane and excited about anything even slightly novel — our rental car takes diesel! the road signs are different! — we stumbled upon a small Bónus store. We were excited enough that we took a photo, which I’m sure elicited an eye roll from anyone watching. This may have been the least of our Icelandic adventures, but it was the first, and because of that Bónus holds a special place in my heart.
So it was with that context, a year later and unable to travel due to the pandemic, I decided to order some books about Iceland from a bookstore in Reykjavik. Browsing through the “Books in English” category, I spotted a familiar-looking drunken pig. Bónus Poetry. My curiosity was piqued. I had to have it.
Now that I’ve read it, I’m happy to say the book isn’t just a novelty for tourists. It’s a collection of poems by an Icelander about his rapidly changing homeland. Just a few generations ago, the author’s ancestors, descendants of Vikings, lived off the land; now he, along with most other Icelanders, is dependent on Bónus and the petroleum-fueled supply chain that makes such convenience possible. As someone who loves Walden but subscribes to six different streaming services, there’s a tension there I can relate to.
A year ago I was enchanted by Iceland. I was a tourist then, but I wanted to learn more about this place, how it has changed, and its people. I bought Bónus Poetry not knowing what to expect, but it was just what I needed.