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Stockholm left a beautiful imprint for life

Nicholas Baldwin Skaldetvind from the USA graduated from the Master’s programme in English at Stockholm University in 2019. His time in Stockholm made a big impression on him and his writing.

Photo of Nicholas Baldwin Skaldetvind
Nicholas Baldwin Skaldetvind. Photo: Danielle Rubi

What made you choose Stockholm University?

Before I came to Stockholm I was living in Copenhagen for four years, and I wanted to remain in Scandinavia. At one point in my high school life I spent as an exchange student in Skåne, and had yet to visit Stockholm. I thought it would be both new and comfortable to live and study in the Swedish capital, as I was already familiar with Scandinavia.

A poem of mine was featured in Two Thirds North [an anthology of transnational literature published annually by Stockholm University] when I was 25. It gave me the necessary and at that time lacking encouragement to move forward.  As is such, SU for me represents a validation of some sort that I am a poet that can in fact write poetry, that I can edit and publish poetry. The university offered courses in creative writing that drew from the best traditions in both literature and writing in both a theoretical and practical way. What is more, the classes were set in an transnational milieu. This made it easy in making my decision to study with SU.

What was it like to live in Stockholm?

I lived close to Odenplan and walked to class every day through beautiful sceneries. After my classes I enjoyed frequenting the university library “with the great wooden doors” through which I’d pass to go about reading and conducting private language philologies. I lived in an apartment with a Swedish mother and her two children. There was an ample sauna in the cellar, which I visited everyday. In the winter we would go ice-skating, and when spring came – I love spring in Stockholm, I miss that – we would play football or walk through the forest. For me, Stockholm represents a place where I am able to pursue any part of myself I feel like acknowledging, thanks to the support of the academic staff and study counsellor.

Outside of university life, I liked to while away my time by sitting waterside on one of the city’s many islands, logging (Stock-holm) my thoughts into diary form, while at other times I attended thought-provoking academic seminars on campus and other cultural events off campus, such as operas and other experimental theater performances. It was a balance of living as an academic city slicker hand-in-hand with finding my “authentic” self in the omnipresent nature. What a tranche de vie. There was so much to do.

What possibilities did your studies open up for you?

During my first two semesters in the master’s programme, I focused on generating poetry in my spare time. Theories of prose, fiction writing, and literary analysis from the various classes I was taking were swirling my thoughts, so I transposed these whims into poetry, thereby establishing my first semblance of a personal poetics. I didn’t have much formal training in poetry, but I believed in myself and produced a tremendous amount of verse that first year by adapting the protean prose seeds present in my many academic papers and in my diaries...I arranged these phrases into mellifluous breath groups according to the ideas reflected by speech rhythms and “that indefinable personal quavering sound of each and every artist.”  Thanks to the good city of Stockholm and the university’s knowledgeable professors, I followed a romantic inspiration to let my imagination unfurl, to put down a summation of my life in poetry.  I also learned a lot by serving as an editor for Two Thirds North: how to accept works of a high literary quality, how works might function in a tailored state. I learned how to thoughtfully argue why a certain piece worked and how others didn’t.

After successfully ventilating my thesis, I came across a publisher who accepted submissions for poetry collections, so I quickly compiled my poems into a sequence and submitted them. They were the poems I wrote in Stockholm, and now they soon will be published in my own book of poetry. For the cover of this collection I collaborated with the artist Wen Tang, who is also the cover artist for Two Thirds North. Additionally I have been accepted for a writing residency in Finland this summer. I’m not making thousands of dollars. I drive a Volvo. But I am living in California and putting my degree to use in different ways.

Is there anything you want to say to future Stockholm University students?

Establish a lasting relationship with your professors. Try to find housing as close to the university as possible because the immediate surroundings of the university are so accessible and awe-inspiring.

Studies are quite serious and time-consuming, but consider becoming involved in a student club on campus. I was not, and I often wonder what being a part of the university’s Nordic ski team or gymnastics club would have been like. Become involved in anything the city has to offer in the way of volunteering with the many cultural institutions. Stockholm is a small city but a lot is happening. You will always be stimulated because there is the omnipresence of a comingling beauty, a beauty of the urban cityscape with the natural waterscape that is truly conducive to the creation of meaningful works.

Interested in studying a master's programme at the Department of English?

Read the magazine Two Thirds North



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