Monday, 29 June 2009

Pia Tafdrup: Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 3

[54-56]

I write, and draw a sparkling trail behind me: the Writing – ineradicable – where ‘I’ exist. My self is left behind, seeing differently from before. With each book my fate moves.

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From the day when as a child I discovered a secret alphabet, a code that was mine, I gave up many of my earlier games, I lived in a different way. Both visibly and invisibly.

*

Individual words are not in themselves poetic, but if all goes well, words added to other words can produce poetry. It is not that the world must be poetic so that I can create poetry, but that I must be able to ascribe a value to words. The transformation into art takes place in words, and it is in concentration that the accumulation happens. It is here that the designated dimension is transformed into symbol or image-value, here that the syntax unfolds or is broken down, it is here that new words emerge and new rhythms, with their own pattern of pressures and tone-scales. In poetry tones and colours are set free, in poetry the words acquire a value beyond the everyday, here musicality and suggestion are very important qualities. And so for the reader, poetry first appears in the encounter with the poem.

Of itself, language is cold, the material is cold. By material I mean the sum of all the signs I use to write poems, but the material can be manipulated. It is I who make it warm and soft. Language is filled with my breathing, follows the movement of my body. Likewise, language is of itself sexless. It is only my noisy behaviour that makes it rise...

With its standard expressions, fixed idioms and figurative meanings language is not much different from a ruin which lays bare life’s transitory nature, its time and history. A concept like ‘eternity’ is static and dead, while poetic language points to the possibility of change.

Language is only language – and language should not be confused with things. I can’t write with the word ‘pen’. There is no agreement between the word and the thing, very rarely does the sound connect with the object. Whether I like it or not, I have to put up with the fact that a leaf is called: Leaf, a washtub: Washtub, and cream: Cream. Damn it, I wish I could have come up first with better words for the ones I find most impossible, the ones that billow like jellyfish in my mouth, but a word is a word and cannot be done away with.

Language has its geological layers. It contains several eras. I am not one of those who adhere to the idea that words have lost their value in a tragic way, or can only express vague reminiscences. The original meaning may have been lost, but one equally that is equally new and valid one can come into being. Language fluctuates. Obsolete expressions don’t necessarily need to be reactivated, but the innate potential of language will go on developing. Thus fresh nuances and fresh entities constantly emerge. So I’m not left with the last ruins of a language. I am filled with verbal visions, and continue to believe in the magic of language in poetry.

translated from Danish by David McDuff

Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 1
Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 2

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

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