Thursday, 30 April 2009

Eva-Stina Byggmästar - a poem

Only one poem from a collection of more than fifty. Because this author is tricky. But the poem does not involve too many multi-puns, except that curious word "bröstsocker" which means "candy sugar", while the literal meaning is "breast sugar" (!). It is regarded as archaïc usage in Swedish, the term now being "kandissocker".

I like these slightly fay, slightly pantheïstic, poems that Byggmästar writes, but she can test the translator to the limit with some of her multiple
associations. This poem is the first in her 2008 collection Men hur små poeter finns det egentligen (But How Small Poets Are There Really).


MOVING TOWARDS IT, little book
rocked asleep, the nearness, gladness
of small letters, now dreaming next to each other
about transparent libraries.

And if I were a green-clad poet,
in corduroy with hood,
with intrusive woodcocks,
what a blessed piece of luck,
you would walk as if on a naze,
a spit, a tongue of land along
the light word-swell
of small lakes,
like a mere ripple -


MAKAR SIG DIT, lillboken vaggas
i sömnen
, småbokstävernas närhet,
gladhet, drömmer nu intill varann
om genomskinliga bibliotek.

Och om jag var grönklädd poet,
med manchester och luva,
med närgångna morkullor,
vilken signad lyckoträff,
man gick som på näsa,
ett ed, landtunga lång
invid småsjöarnas lätta
som en krusning bara –

Translated from Swedish by Eric Dickens

1 comment:

David McDuff said...

I think that in spite of their modernity of expression, many of ESB's poems are at root a form of "light poetry", in the sense that "light music" used to be "light" - it's an old-fashioned term for a genre that was once popular but is not so common nowadays. I can't think of anywhere outside of "Finland-Sweden" where poetry like this is written nowadays, for it doesn't fall within the usual categories of "pop poetry", or what Michael Strunge contemptuously called "bestseller poetry", but is written and dedicated to an avant-garde audience whose identity is obscure. Yet it's not "neo-Dada", either. As Catharina Gripenberg has pointed out, the Finland-Swedish cultural area is probably unique, as it exists in a kind of limbo or periphery between cultures and languages - and so it produces these strange hybrids, which span all sorts of periods of cultural and literary history, and sometimes draw on areas of the European consciousness that have been repressed or forgotten.

I know that comparisons are odious, but I ultimately find C. Gripenberg's poems more accessible to translation, as they're less immersed in language itself, and depend for their effect on imagery and psychological shifts that can be more readily transposed to other languages. I'm not even sure that ESB's poems are really meant to be translated into other languages at all, given their inner connection and total commitment to the physical fabric of the language in which they're written. Though I think that in your translation you've done as well as is possible within the limitations imposed by this fact.

I sometimes find that the work of Kurt Schwitters and his "Anna Blume" come to mind when I'm reading ESB. But while Schwitters chose to create his own English versions of his German-language poems - like Brodsky after him, he wrote what are essentially new poems in English - ESB doesn't take that all-significant step.

Just a thought.