One of Sweden’s most respected and celebrated contemporary conceptual poets, Ida Börjel is regarded as a vital critical presence in the Swedish literary and cultural landscape. Born in 1975 in the southern Swedish university city of Lund, Börjel has dedicated her practice to the potential for poetry to serve as instrument of historical and political inquiry, disruption, and illumination.
The wrench is the tool most closely aligned with much of Börjel's work, where her use of language both disassembles and repairs in an effort to hobble and silence the machine. As she writes in 'Tools', from Miximum Ca'Canny The Sabotage Manuals,
the saboteur's weapons are the things she
typically walks around with like the
materfamilias she is like the
workforce she is the arsenal
Börjel's 2004 debut, Sond/Probe, received both Katapultpriset, The Swedish Writers' Union award for best debut, as well as Borås Tidning's prize for best debut. Her subsequent book, Skåneradio/Radio Skane, published in 2006, echoes call-ins to a regional radio station in order to reveal local citizens' sadnesses, sense of isolation, and growing disenfranchisement. The book is lyrically prophetic in its spare depiction of the granular seeds of nativism, xenophobia, and political discontent.
Oriented by a fierce commitment to the investigative research process, each of Börjel's projects takes its shape in relation to rigorous explorations of literary and political histories which can frame, and re-frame, language as instrument. Nothing is sacred, as evidenced by her continuous re-staging and deconstruction of her 2013 project Miximum Ca'Canny The Sabotage Manuals. Drawing on an 1916 handbook published by the Industrial Workers of the World, The Sabotage Manuals merges the political and the lyrical as the thesis or distillation of the injuries of capitalism, and possible repairs – individual and collective – afforded by small and large acts of sabotage.
Ma, Börjel's book-length poem, was in 2014 nominated for Sweden's most prestigious literary award, the August Prize. A response to Inger Christensen's seminal Alphabet, published in 1981, Ma voices events and experiences unfolding in the underwater shadows and nuclear light of the Anthropocene age. Less a curative than a testimonial, Ma speaks simultaneously for the one and the many, the solitary mother and the protesting multitude,
in the mother animal mother tree
butterflies were, heavy water
firewater was anima
I turn around
Börjel's work has been translated into 21 languages; as a translator, she has translated into Swedish work by Solmaz Sharif (together with Jennifer Hayashida), and in her travels in the Middle East she has translated Samira Negrouche, Dahlia Taha, and Mona Saffar to Swedish.
Sond (Probe), OEI Editör, Stockholm, 2004
Målarbok (Coloring Book), in collaboration with Lars Mikael Raattamaa and the design group Reala, Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm, 2005.
Skåneradio (Radio Skane), OEI Editör, Stockholm, 2006
Konsumentköplagen : juris lyrik (The Consumer Protection Law : Juris Lyric), OEI Editör, Stockholm, 2008
Miximum Ca' Canny Sabotagemanualerna you cutta da pay we cutta da shob (Miximum Ca' Canny The Sabotage Manuals you cutta da pay we cutta da
shob), Moss, Norway, 2013.
Ma (Ma), Albert Bonniers Förlag, Stockholm, 2014.
Co-translator, with Jennifer Hayashida, Look, by Solmaz Sharif, Malmö, Rámus Förlag, 2017.
Sond translated into Persian by Robab Moheb for Entesharate, Iran, 2006.
Sond translated into French by Esther Sermage, Les petits matins, France, 2010.
Miximum Ca'Canny The Sabotage Manuals (chapbook), translated into English by Jennifer Hayashida, Berkeley, CA: Commune Editions, 2015.
Miximum Ca'Canny The Sabotage Manuals, translated into English by Jennifer Hayashida, Commune Editions, Berkeley, 2016.
Prizes and Awards
2005 – Borås Newspaper's Debut Award for the collection Sond
2005 – Katapult Prize for Sond awarded by the Swedish Writers' Union
2008 – Mare Kandre Prize
2008 – Nöjesguiden Literary Award
2009 – Kalleberger Stipend awarded by the Swedish Academy
2010 – Sveriges Radio's Poetry Prize
2011 – Anna Sjöstedt's Travel Award
2014 – The Gustaf Fröding Society Poetry Prize
2015 – Erik Lindegren Prize
2015 – Gerard Bonnier's Poetry Prize for Ma
Sound Walk, "Why we walk in circles when we are lost" – Malmö, Sweden
Installation "KKöpl" – Röda Sten, Gothenburg, Sweden, 2008
Installation "Rummet Rosen Orden Anna O" – For the exhibition "Gray Zones," Ystad Art Museum, Sweden, 2010.
Konsumentköplagen : juris lyrik staged as a play at the City Theater of Helsingborg, 2010
"The Act" juridisk lyrik (website and performance: www.theact.pl), a collaboration in interactive design at Malmö Högskola, featuring a performance by the actor Rafael Pettersson at the Skåne Art Association, 2012.