Södergran, Edith

Södergran, Edith Image 1

Edith Södergran, 1912 ? © Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland
Edith Södergran (1892–1923) was the first avant-garde poet in Nordic literature. She was born in St. Petersburg in 1892, grew up in a middle-class family and attended a highly regarded German girls’ school in the then Russian capital. She was a Finnish citizen but her first language was Swedish. She wrote her poetry in German, French, Russian and Swedish and additionally spoke Finnish, English and some Italian. Her first literary language was German (about half of her production is in German), but it is quite traditional; romantic youth poems mainly influenced by Heinrich Heine. In 1908 she suddenly started to write exclusively in her home language Swedish, a language she was never educated in. After this departure she focused her poetry more on what it is to be female and what strategies one can have as a woman in a changing world of more equal opportunities. French symbolism, German art-noveau and Russian and Italian futurism all influenced her style. Södergran was the first European female writer to publish a literary manifest, an advanced idea in 1919, and she introduced the idea of “the New Woman” in Nordic poetry. Today Södergran’s writings are seen as constituting a paradigm shift; her first collection of poetry, Poems in 1916 (Dikter 1916) represents the breakthrough of literary avant-gardism in Scandinavia. During her lifetime she published four collections of poetry and one collection of aphorisms. After her death a final collection of remaining poems “The Land that is not”, was published in 1925. In 1909 she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and spent a few years in sanatoriums in Finland and in Davos, Switzerland. She died of tuberculosis in 1923 at the age of 31.