Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Pia Tafdrup: Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 2


Where violence begins, words have usually given up the fight long ago.


To produce language is among other things to acquire knowledge – and thinking can only pass through language, but no human being can ever be all-knowing, as knowledge does not stop anywhere.


Society needs the body that is able to work, and is not always interested in the self-conscious body that comes to language.

In the last twenty years, during which poetry has assiduously commented on language, language has lost much of its concrete quality. So often the mouth is an image of speaking, rarely of eating – or sex is linked with pleasure and orgasm, and only exceptionally with reproduction. And what has happened to physical work during this century? Work has not been eliminated, but rendered immaterial and intellectual. On every level the tangible has retreated before the intangible. Man’s association with matter is often replaced by programming, control by the images on a screen, the use of apparatuses or patches. Physical labour no longer produces reality – instead, cultural patterns have taken over this role in a hyperfunctional society where more and more people are becoming passive consumers of goods, ideologies and information.

The movement from the industrial culture to the information society has only just begun. We are faced with conditions so altered that language has hardly yet managed to create means of expression for them.


I do not own language, I borrow it. Many of us must share the same words, but the moment I write a poem, I make the alphabet my own.


In itself, a word is no more than a word. The words that once were flesh are now events in language, pure appearance without being. In the beginning was the word, but before that darkness. Darkness and uncertainty.


"Words are weightless, not because they are empty, but because of their eminent width," Løgstrup says.

translated from Danish by David McDuff

Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 1

Note: the posts with the translated text of Chapters I, II and III can be accessed here, here, and here.

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