Saturday, 15 August 2009

Pia Tafdrup: Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 10


I once saw a poet reading his poems aloud as he stood barefoot on the floor. Had I not been able to hear him, I would have been able to see from the spellbinding movements of the muscles under his skin how musical his poetry was.


A poem is more than words, it also evokes countless physical states. The rhythmical element in particular designates the poem’s essence. The poem’s rhythm is what stimulates the imagination, what constitutes the poem’s forward-driving power. Akin to song and dance, the poem enters the blood of the reader or listener.


I don’t write to music, but listen my way into the poem’s own music. It is best if I can bring everything around to silence – or at least avoid listening to anything but the poem that wants out.


Silence is the central concept in The Bridge of Seconds. Silence is the precondition of everything, after silence everything can begin. The nightingale that introduces the book is a bird which, almost following to a mathematical principle, “works” with the pause. It is in these intervals that the most important things happen, when strictness and order in one dimension or other unfold behind all the beauty.

A poem does not consist merely of words, but also of silence, the space between one letter and the next, between word and word, stanza and stanza, interstices that point to what is implied or quite simply to the empty space itself. Even the single word has a blind spot called silence. It is this silence that is an ineluctable value, silence which works to organize the written and make it comprehensible.


The poem speaks, listens and is silent. All at the same time.


If a poem is not to drown in its own noise, it must have a relation to silence. The silence that is almost impossible to find anywhere any more must be heard in the poem. Silence is a very relative value. Here just now there is silence because I am absorbing myself and cannot hear the distant noise, but if I lose my concentration for a moment, the sound is back again at once. There is a world beside the poem, and it is full of sounds that cannot be heard as long as the concentration lasts.


Poetic language is not just a chance to set oneself out over something, but also to set oneself open to something. The poem is a magic potential.


What you see is not everything: there is more to hear.

translated from Danish by David McDuff

Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 1
Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 2
Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 3
Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 4
Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 5
Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 6
Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 7
Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 8
Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 9

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

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