Reading is about taking an attitude that is attentively listening, asking, interpreting and remembering, about being able to go in and out of the poem in an attempt to find models in the inner relations between the signs and to construct a meaningful whole, but the process is far from merely intellectual, it also contains receptive and sensitive levels. Reading is a constant balance between objectivity and empathy, an attempt to understand what is purely factually there, and how one perceives it oneself. The degree to which one becomes visible in the poem or aware of oneself was once revealed to me in a dream:
in my dream
books were shiny mirrors
each single page
every word a mirror for the one who read
in any book at all
the reader saw only himself
In the poem ‘The Dream about the Reader’ from my collection White Fever, the writer is present in more than one sense, but at the same time the reader becomes aware of his own being there, conscious of his presence, which is something different from merely seeing oneself confirmed.
Sometimes the reader does not see what the poem wants, but uses a strategy that is wrong in principle and sees only himself or his own purpose. Such a reading can only lead to him staring himself blind in the mirror.
After it has been published, a poem no longer belongs to me. Once I have given it away, I must be prepared for widely differing approaches to it. And there are as many versions of the poem as there are readers. Sometimes readers have presented me with aspects of my poems which I have not been aware of, but which I have taken account of because I found them convincing. In a sense they were already there without my having seen them. Feedback of that kind is rare, but I see it as an essential part of the process that poems I thought I knew inside out because I produced them can still surprise me. It is only when they have lain unread for a long spell, or when I have read them aloud several times, that I take possession of them, I will always be the person who inhabits the background of any of my poems, I am its “crown witness”, as Per Hojholt once put it, but it can never be my task to analyse the poem or interpret it.
translated from Danish by David McDuff
Over the Water I Walk (VII) - 1
Over the Water I Walk (VII) - 2