Poet Jóhannes úr Kötlum taught Steinn for a time, when he was a peripatetic teacher of rural children at Saurbær. Steinn later said:
When I was a child, he [Jóhannes] was supposed to stuff into me some sort of basics of education. He didn’t have much success, and it was a painful experience for both.”
In Steinn’s case the “pain” appears to have lasted:
It even went so far, that I beat him up.
Jóhannes later wrote of their early acquaintance:
He was nine years younger than me, very fair with hair like shining silk. There was a rebellious element to his expression when he was exploring the existential arguments of this stranger – sometimes sarcastic demons marked his eyes and nose. But by the evening of the first day we were chums.
Poet Sigfús Daðason was sceptical that the student would in fact have made any attempt to tease his master: he felt that their characters were so different that the younger could not have learned much from the elder, beyond conventional book-learning. Jóhannes was already writing poetry at the time. Steinn said, on the one hand, that this did not lead to him dreaming of becoming a poet too; while on the other hand he stated that Jóhannes directly contributed to his beginning to write:
I had no poetic tendencies, but once, before I reached confirmation age [14 years], Jóhannes instructed me to compose a poem (I think it was as a punishment for brawling at an inappropriate time). So I sat down and wrote my first poem. It was called The Damned, and it was about social life in Hell. Jóhannes has never said a word about that poem, neither then, nor since.
Under Jóhannes’ guidance, Steinn wrote an essay about autumn: “Autumn had imprinted its pale impression on the kingdom of nature, the grassfields were grown pale like the visage of a dying man…”