Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A famous Lars Gustafsson

This poem is very well known. There exists an English translation on the Internet, but to my mind it wanders too far from the original. Here is my suggestion:


Världens tystnad före Bach

Det måste ha funnits en värld före
Triosonatan i D, en värld före a-mollpartitan,
men hur var den världen?
Ett Europa av stora tomma rum utan genklang
överallt ovetande instrument,
där Musikalisches Opfer och Wohltemperiertes Klavier
aldrig hade gått över en klaviatur.
Ödsligt belägna kyrkor
där aldrig Påskpassionens sopranstämma
i hjälplös kärlek slingrat sig kring flöjtens
mildare rörelser,
stora milda landskap
där bara gamla vedhuggare hörs med sina yxor
det friska ljudet av starka hundar om vintern
och – som en klocka – skridskor som biter i glanskis;
svalorna som svirrar i sommarluften
snäckan som barnet lyssnar till
och ingenstans Bach ingenstans Bach
världens skridskotystnad före Bach



The silence of the world before Bach

There must have existed a world before
the Trio Sonata in D, a world before the A minor Partita,
but what was that world like?
A Europe of large unresonating spaces
everywhere unknowing instruments,
where Musikalisches Opfer and Wohltemperiertes Klavier
had never passed over a keyboard.
Lonely remote churches
where the soprano voice of the Easter Passion
had never in helpless love twined itself round
the gentler movements of the flute,
gentle expanses of landscape
where only old woodcutters are heard with their axes
the healthy sound of strong dogs in winter
and – like a bell – skates biting into glassy ice;
the swallows swirling in the summer air
the shell that the child listens to
and nowhere Bach nowhere Bach
skating silence of the world before Bach

Friday, 26 November 2010

Poem by the Swedish writer Lars Gustafsson


Aristotle and the crayfish


We went to buy angling-worms
in a shop clearly intended for this purpose.

And we found what we were looking for;
fat, squirming angling-worms,

a kind the fish here seem to prefer.
But in the middle of this room a large old-fashioned earthenware jar

blue, round and full of young crayfish.
And my young son was inconsolable

at having to leave these wonderful creatures.
We bought two, and released them

in our clean, glass-clear aquarium,
where the goldfish moved slowly and solemnly

like old poets in a distinguished academy. And see,
a great darkness descended upon all things:

here expressions of opinion and discussions took place
beyond our comprehension; only seaweed

that floated up to the surface bore witness to
the contention that here was secretly taking place.

On the third day the aquarium cleared once more.
And became as before. But no crayfish

were visible. We decided they now
were living like hermits, in greater wisdom,

a life far removed from the general public
down below the sand beds.

So it continued for a long time, until one day
I opened my Aristotle

and found a very small crayfish corpse
flat as a plant in a herbarium

precisely in the short section where the Philosopher
talks about memory and recollecting

the past. And this chapter
one of the best things

ever written about memory,
will now for ever be associated

with an odour not easy to forget,
one of a slightly rotten crayfish.


Saturday, 20 November 2010

A poem from the cycle by the Dutch poet C.O. Jellema, based on the novella 'Lenz' by Georg Büchner


‘DEN 20. JÄNNER GING LENZ DURCHS GEBIRG’

6.

To be a bird in thought no dared intention,
while in the wood he held his left arm tight
when it would start to flap. His only right
As guest, his duty: proffering attention.

He proffered. Was the profferer. Surprised
at what he gave: his soul. In shady places
it lay like snow, maid, mother, outlined traces
of who had hosted it – a guest likewise.

If it soon melts, he thought, plants will start growing,
like me, the blossom, pollination, pledges
of fruit that with a crack will open wide.

He saw himself then as the inner edges
of many silences – not beyond knowing.
The birds stayed on the outside in the sky.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

One more by Marie Howe

You can find the original here.


Skynd dig

Vi standser ved renseriet og købmanden
og benzinstationen og grøntsagshandleren og
Skynd dig skat, siger jeg, skynd dig skynd dig,
mens hun iler afsted to tre trin bag mig
med oplynet blå jakke og nedrullede sokker.

Hvor ønsker jeg at hun skal skynde sig hen? Til sin grav?
Til min? Til hvor hun en skønne dag måtte stå som fuldvoksen?

I dag, når alle ærinder til sidst er udrettet, siger jeg til hende,
Skat, jeg er ked af at jeg bliver ved at sige Skynd dig –
du går foran. Du kan være mor.

Og, Skynd dig, siger hun over skulderen, og kigger
tilbage på mig med et grin. Skynd dig nu elskling, siger hun,
skynd dig, skynd dig, og tager husnøglene fra mine hænder.

Also at the festival - the American poet Marie Howe

Here's a translation of a poem by Marie Howe you can find here


Ægteskab

Min mand kan lide at se madlavnings- og byggeprogrammerne,
Discovery Channel, og kirurgikanalen.
I aftes fortalte han os om en mand som kom ind på skadestuen

med en bajonet stukket lige igennem kraniet og hjernen.
Fik de den ud? Spurgte vi allesammen.
Det gjorde de. Og manden var ok fordi bladet passerede lige mellem

de to halvdele uden at skære dem over.
And hvem havde jaget bajonetten ind i skallen på manden? Hans kone.
En stærk kvinde, sagde nogen. Og alle var enige.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The British poet Mandy Coe

One of the most interesting poets at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival was Mandy Coe. Here are Danish translations of three poems you can find at this website.

Køernes tyngde

Køer er usandsynlig tunge,
de er den mørke materie
astrofysikere taler om.
Hele universets tyngde
kan gøres rede for, hvis
du inkluderer køer.

Det er denne tyngde der får
hovene til at splatte ud i mudret,
trækker mælk ned til sprængfyldte
patter, gør at kokasser klasker
jorden med uhyggelig kraft.

Selv malket
bevæger de sig tungt.
Med krummede knoklede rygge
under svien af auktionsholderens kæp
exer og vakler de
som om selve knoglerne
var støbt om fra jernsenge
rustent parkgitter

At se en ko hejset
op i luften ved det ene bagben
er at være vidne til
en planets død.



Tegn

En mand gav mig denne hund.
Fordi han havde tegnet hende, har hun kun to ben,
men fra siden ser hun da fin ud.

Jeg vandt hende i et terningsspil: et ottekast.
Hun har et alligatorgrin
som holder børn og banditter borte.

Værsgo’, hun bider ikke
der ser bare sådan ud
fordi fyren tegnede hende om natten

da han var stangstiv.
Han skal have tegnet en mand, et hus, et gældsbrev
på et væddeløbsbillet. Med have og et træ,

men den tilhørte Stelkie Murray
og man tegner ikke på det som ikke er dit.
Der findes dog regler.

Jeg har en gang prøvet det – slikket på stiften
tegnet en mønt. Prøvet at bruge den
men den var en nitte.

Tror ikke jeg har øje for kunst
men næste gang jeg spiller Leonardo
gemmer jeg et es i ærmet;

få ham til at tegne en pige for mig,
og hvis han nu ikke er for fuld,
får jeg ham til at tegne hende forfra.



Gå i seng med en ost og pickles sandwich

Den er livsforskønnende.
Den prøver ikke at score dig.
Den skal laves.

En ost og pickles sandwich
skuffer aldrig.
Man ligger ikke og tænker:
Er jeg for fed?
For frugtbar?
For usikker?

Dine tanker er klare, dine valg enkle:
at skære den midtover
eller ikke at skære den midtover,
hvor tynd osteskiven skal være
og hvor picklesen skal placeres.

Fra en ost og pickles sandwich
forventer man hverken blomster, digte
eller tilbedelser. Man forventer
det man får:
ost ... og pickles.

Man ønsker sig, man spiser,
og bagefter har man spist.
Ikke noget med at ligge vågen og fornærmet, lyttende til dens snorken.

Sikre snacks.
Kan anbefales.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Thank you!

A big thank you from me to my audiences at the Aldeburgh poetry festival. As promised, here are the two talks I had written down but decided not to give, in order to create more time for questions. You can download the talk about the two poems here, and the Singing Danes here. Hope you like them.
If you would like to ask me anything about them, or other poetry matters, please feel free to write to me at: irons@post7.tele.dk

Thursday, 4 November 2010

A different type of poem from Benny Andersen

The poetics of preservation

As a boy I kept caterpillars
was very fond of them
preserved one during the occupation
picked from the hedge a caterpillar
a fine fat multicoloured privet hawkmoth caterpillar
with a black crooked horn behind
put it in a jam jar
with a supply of privet leaves
with a lid of perforated greaseproof paper
but instead of munching away
it became motionless
the fine colours
the wriggling fatness
became wrapped up and hidden
in a lifeless colourless pupa.

I placed the glass
at the back of the larder
autumn passed
winter passed
it was forgotten
there were other things to think about
Hitler and Rommel
with Eisenhower and Montgomery
spring drew nearer
one spring day mother called out
A mouse a mouse there’s
a mouse in the larder
you must get rid of it right away

A flapping sound from the bottom of the cupboard
a wing-span larger than the jam jar
a beauty that demanded the whole universe
full of paternal pride I let out
my young privet hawkmoth into the light
just wait
soon you will get to see both the dark
and all the stars you have deserved

Now
old and bereft of parents
I often resort to the same method
preserve fat wingless poems
in dark drawers for months
miss my mother
deputise for her
listen expectantly terror-stricken
to the foreboding flapping from the dark of oblivion
that announces liberation is near
that the poem is now on the wing

Thanks for the m(o)use
Mother.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Not to mention the Dutch prestidigitateur Gerrit Komrij


BUGABOO

Strip me of poetry and
I’m a mailman nothing more
A counter that’s lost the score
A man with no magic wand

Divest me of my masks and
I’m a starch-necked minister
A hair-splitting word-twister
With marble grave close at hand

A bungler who’s trundling along
The sunset his ultimate stop
All love of mankind’s judged as wrong
And bunglers are all for the chop 

(To see the collection this has been taken from, go to here)

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

And one from Willem Jan Otten


TO THE BUBBLE-BLOWER

Forty-six years ago, bubble-blower, the great
event took place, in the river-name district
of Amsterdam, just to the west of
my memory - my one and only birth.

From the start love was showered upon me,
as love is showered on those who are most,
most rare and who emerge before your
very eyes, drenched to their naked skin.

I was deemed from the outset to be worth more
than I would ever become in my own eyes.

My most patient poem, my pithiest sentence,
my swiftest pitch into a son’s glove,
have not offset the fact that I then,
on the sole occasion of my birth,

was for those present the world and more besides.

the bubble that mother-of-pearl comes drifting
through the garden and does not know the breath
that blew, cannot turn into the wind.

One more by Toon Tellegen


MY LAST POEM

I’m allowed just one more poem.
They’re standing behind me.
This is that poem.

It’s got to be an ordinary poem,
not an extraordinary poem,
and it doesn’t have to be all that long a poem
or a special poem for this particular occasion:
something serious or something immortal.
Not something other than otherwise.

Beginning’s the most difficult bit (the prompting).

It’s got to be finished within a certain period.
And by finished they also mean finished!
But it’s nowhere near finished yet.
It’s not even halfway finished.
Not even halfway finished... they know that one.
They pull my chair backwards.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Time for another sonnet - this time by the Dutch poet Martinus Nijhoff

The Dancer

Beneath my skin a captive beast is fenced
That thrashes and would bite a pathway free;
Its dark blood throbs, and muscles highly tensed
Tremble in such confined extremity.

Until its pain like heat flows through my veins
And forces gestures out whose tempered haste
And maintained elegance screw up its pace
Still more before it hurls aside its chains.

One must be powdered so that in one’s face
The black of open-scorching eyes alone
Betrays the madness of the inner beast.

The mouth, upturned and reddened, must display
A pride so godlike everyone should know
A broad smile is now totally released.