Throughout 2017 & 2018 poet and blogger Leeanne Stoddart will travel around Oslo searching for the heart of each borough. She will write blogs, take photos, and write poetry from each place she visits. You can trace the journey here, and follow @hverbydelharethjerte on Instagram.
We are also inviting a number of guest writers to contribute to the project. Susan Morales Guerra has written the poem about Sagene, whilst Leeanne Stoddart has written the blog.
Bydel Sagene is one of my favourites. It’s another one that has a neighbourhood that has the same name as the bydel. Sagene is made up of: Bjølsen, Iladelen, Sagene, Sandaker, Torshov, and Åsen. I’m mostly going to talk about Sagene and Torshov. If you know Norwegian it will be obvious that the borough was formerly an industrial area because the word ‘sag’ translates to ‘saw’. Sagene is literally ‘the saws’.
I am officially a volunteer at Det Andre Teatret in Torshov (although I haven’t had a shift for a long time). I have performed there as a poet in the past and at the beginning of this project I read the first poem about bydel Gamle Oslo. The Andre Historier event unites poets, storytellers, and comedians under one theme. That night trees were one of the themes. Det Andre Teatret [The Other Theatre] is a mostly improv theatre that is run primarily from volunteer work. The volunteers get great perks. On the path to being fluent among the final hurdles are understanding jokes and song lyrics. When I first started working there I would laugh when everyone else laughed just to fit in, but eventually the laughs were genuine! I do love it there and I believe it would be fair to think of it as the heart of improv in Oslo, though I am aware it’s not the only place that improv is happening and I’m willing to debate with others who want to nominate a different improv hub. For such a small bydel there is a great deal of culture going on in Sagene.
Just around the corner is Soria Moria (which is fun to say) and Cosmopolite. At the beginning of the year the Oslo International Rumi Festival (I’m on the board) held our annual festival there. Cosmopolite may well be the heart of world music in Oslo. Again, I’m willing to debate. I know that Oslo World Music Festival is doing important work, but they have their concerts at different venues around the city including Cosmopolite.
As you may have noticed the last five blogs and poems were written by guest writers. On a beautiful day in May we gathered together in Torshovparken and had a picnic and shared our poems. There were a few other writers in attendance. One of those writers was Susan Morales Guerra. Susan joined in and shared a couple poems about bydel Sagene. She has worked for the bydel for a long time and is a big fan. The idea was born that I could still get help with some of the blogs that I had already done the research for by getting some guest writers on board to just write the poems. Susan’s is the first and there are two more to come.
Torshovparken is beautiful. The surrounding area includes a mini-golf park, basketball and tennis courts.
On the corner is the Dukketeater [Puppet Theatre] which is under the management of Oslo Nye. We saw an amazing puppet show for adults there quite recently. The building is on the site of an old tram station and there is a tap dance school that has classes there (a few ladies from my choir have taken lessons). I wouldn’t call the park the heart of the entire bydel, but I would nominate it as the heart of Torshov. (Though it should definitely get a high score for having the cleanest porta potty I’ve ever seen in my life.)
I spend a lot of time at Sagene Samfunnshus [community centre] because my choir rehearses there weekly. We’re called Dagsangere på Sagene (it translates to something like the day singers in Sagene). The choir rehearses on a Tuesday morning so most of the members are retired, or underemployed, or on long term sick leave, or parental leave, or freelancers, you know people who would be free on a weekday morning. Both singing some songs in Norwegian and conversation with my fellow choir members have helped immensely with my language acquisition. (The choir is currently having a crowdfunding campaign. Check it out here.) There was one choir heavy day that I documented on Instagram. It began at Sagene Kirke, a beautiful Gothic revival building that was built in 1891. The acoustics are amazing. On the day in question we were participating in a choir festival, there were five other choirs, and we all performed without amplification.
The day ended at Vøienvolden gård where the bydelsdagene (borough day) was being celebrated.
The choir mostly performs in the bydel. There are a couple nursing homes we’ve visited a few times. We’ve also sung at the Asylum Reception Centre which is in Torshov, (that seems like a nice part of the city to start a new life in). We usually have a Christmas concert in the lobby of the Torshov library. The foyer has a very high glass ceiling and the acoustics are amazing, we sound great there.
Because I’m at Sagene Samfunnshus (nearly) every week I also get to enjoy the art exhibitions that change on a regular basis. Whenever I make it to rehearsal I try to have coffee or lunch with my choir friends at Nazar Café-Bar, which has great food. It’s a hub for the neighbourhood. There are always parents with babies and ladies who lunch hanging out. There’s a shelf for book exchange. On top of that there are fliers for things going on around the city, but mostly in the neighbourhood. There was one day when I planned a one of the regular Pen to Paper events. (A group of writer friends get together and write under the power of positive peer pressure.) The event was supposed to take place at the community centre, but it was packed. The usual mixture of family and friend groups of different ages were there. We ended up going across the street to Kaffegram which was also lovely and perfect for our small group.
All in all, I would conclude that Sagene Samfunnshus is the winner. It is the heart, the hub, the centre of bydel Sagene. Susan’s poem talks about the whole bydel. She mentions several special spots, but on the day of the picnic we both agreed that Sagene Samfunnhus is the heart. It’s the place she spends a lot of her time because she works there and for me it’s the place that I always have a good day.
As a fun aside here is a video of my friends Jane and Ben when they were visiting from the UK back in February. They write songs about each other and their cats a lot. There is a huge statue of a baby’s head in Torshovdalen and they felt inspired to make a music video of their song, “Big Hairy Fat Baby”. Despite Torshov being part of its name, I have been unable to establish if the park is part of bydel Sagene or if it really belongs to bydel Grünerløkka. As the post about Grünerløkka was among the first this is the only opportunity for me to shoehorn it in.
elven som samler
by susan m guerra
sagenes hjerte snakker,
snakker engelsk, spansk, arabisk
ny norsk, og kan lyde som
en sunmørsk fisker som biter i et knekkebrød.
sagenes hjerte har vinger som hvite måker,
for å fly over iladalen, bjølsenparken, sandaker senter
paviljongen i torshovparken; lilleborg.
har bittesmå føtter
som grå duer i rekke og rad oppe på en strømledning, synger
som en ublu gul trost om våren og har pels
som den skrikende katten! der! ved siden av hunden som løfter benet
ved den triste vannfontenen uten vann
sagenes hjerte kjøper billetter
på teateret på soria moria eller på dukketeatret på trikkestallen
handler på torshov sport for uniformer, løpesko og
slikker seg på leppene mens en går forbi strøm larsen, krydrede pølser, biffer, og spekeskinker, strenger av røde peppere, og fletter av hele hvitløk hengende som et middelaldersk stilleben
rammet inn av butikkvinduet.
ta en kølapp! snart er det jul.
sagenes hjerte finns i slentrende trikkebevegelser, er i hjulenes rytmer fra busslinjene 30, 37, 54, 56, 12, 11, 13 og hva med 34 til tåsen, teller det?
henger over bruene som tykke kaprifolranker
løper gjennom skolegårdene, kjenner til hemmelighetene gjemt i barns sko,
flyr over isen på voldsløkka med nyslipte skøyter
lager spor av riper på isen helt til zambonimaskinen glatter dem ut igjen,
glatt som et laken.
selvsagt må hjertet av sagene drikke og brygger sitt eget øl!
ruller over gatene med bysykler, arbeider i små reparasjonsbutikker,
selger lottokuponger, ringer kirkeklokkene og
ler av varmen ved å flytte på parkbenker rundt om i parkene nær petanquespillere,
og i november
blir enig med kulden om å innta en varm kakao på en fortauskafe.
hvis jeg skulle velge en farge, ville jeg si at sagenes hjerte er grønt, som kastanjetrærne,
eller lindetreet, poplar
er også rødt
som mursteinsbyggene fra 1970-åra, eller var det 1860-åra
og er flekkete og robust som brosteinsgatene
som ennå bærer den endeløse vekten av industriens vugge
som i folkets minner, og i bøker
og i de nye historiene som finns i mosaikkbildet av fliser, biter av ødelagte kopper og kar
satt inn i veggen på sagene samfunnshus.
gjennom sagenes hjerte renner en vene, en vene som holder alt dette og mer, sammen.
elva, akerselva, som flyter og strømmer stille og hurtig,
over stein og trerøtter;
tilbyr sin energi og kraft som den alltid har gjort,
for å samle
samle alle sagenes hjerteslag,
for å lage sagenes hjerte vidt og sterkt.
Susan Morales Guerra is born and bred in San Antonio, Texas and feels at home in Sagene. Soon to retire from her work as performing bureacrat for bydel Sagene, she will devote her efforts to writing poetry and fiction. The poem is translated by the author from the original English.