I write in order to move, in order to be in action. Constantly en route. But across this linearity I experience what is partly a circular dimension in the form of seasonal cycles, those recurring events with their almost invisible changes, and partly a psychic space, which absolutely refuses to let itself be fixed in time, a kind of simultaneous presence related to the dream, in which I am active and also play the part of an observer. A universal time of this kind interests me at least as much as this present second: 22/5/1989 10.57.57, in which birds are singing and the lilacs are in full bloom.
The body ages, but language doesn’t begin to turn sour.
I don’t connect writing merely with the temps arrêté of which Marguerite Duras speaks. Poems are not reflections of an objective world, but new creations. Poems grasp the future before it becomes the past. They are crystallized moments in more than one time dimension.
My poems will always be bound to my pulse at the time when they were written, but they may deal with something far away or completely absent.
Emotions don’t last long. The memory of them does. Nostalgia is dangerous, memory vitally important.
Other cultures have a very different expression of time. For example, there are Native American tribes who do not distinguish between past, present and future. Instead they have two grammatical forms. One is for what is in a state of becoming, and the other for what is already complete. Not only the words but also the grammar reflect a conception of reality.
In memory time is fixed, but memory is also associated with a certainty about the end of everything. Therefore my longing moves not in the direction of something that has been and will be able to appear again. Nor does it seek a utopian future, but rather desires that what exists should acquire meaning while it is taking place, that the now should contain several time dimensions. For Kierkegaard the moment is an absolute now: ‘The moment is that ambiguous place where time and eternity touch each other, and where the concept of Temporality is set, where time constantly cuts off eternity and eternity constantly pierces time.’ Borges has called the time in which God sees the whole duration in one single moment ‘l’éternité instantanée’. The gaze that spans a universality is rare, but there are moments in one’s work on poems when the horizontal and the vertical make themselves felt at the same time.
Edmond Jabès speaks of ‘eternity separating out the moment with the word.'
translated from Danish by David McDuff
Pia Tafdrup: Over the Water I Walk (III)-1
Note: the posts with the translated text of Chapters I and II can be accessed here and here.