Monday, 18 January 2010

Pia Tafdrup: Over the Water I Walk (VII) - 4

I always hope that a poem’s intentions will be perceived by the reader. Perhaps just because reading seems to be such a problematic activity, I aim for a reader who does not intervene with the noise and disturbance of his subjectivity, but is able to see the text as it is, namely God. God is the person who sees the poem as I would like it to be perceived.


The reader nearly always wants to see the poet’s blood, but my poetry is not the witness of a quivering heart. That does not mean I am a non-person – I simply want to be allowed to be the person behind the poem.

The poem can never escape the fact that it is written by a human being, a subject with senses, but the question is whether the poem’s witness should be a text or a human experience... Poems must at least contain elements of life, individual basic components that function as reliable poles in the midst of the torrent of words that comes out. A shy nightingale singing through a summer night could be a verifiable springboard for thoughts about the universe. As long as there is this gleam of reality, the poem can allow itself almost anything at all.

My poems qualify themselves by being my truth, i.e. they are not necessarily a truth for someone else, but many readers expect to be able to use poems as examples drawn from life in their own attempts to find the words for their experience.


The poem excludes no one, it is open to anyone who wants to enter it. In one sense all poetry is written to a ‘you’. In love our yearning moves towards someone who loves us for all that we are. In poetry towards someone who understands all that we want.

Many of my poems speak directly to a ‘you’. One of them contains these rather banal lines:

reality is here
just not you

These lines may have been written with a definite person in mind. Because the other person – in this case the one who is loved – is not present, reality appears extremely unreal. The very distance from the loved person is a restriction that cannot be overcome. Only as the Other can the beloved be loved, but this ‘you’ also points back at the writing subject: reality is there, but the ‘I’ is not present in it, or unable to share in it. Or the person who is reading the poem is addressed directly. At last the ‘I’ appeals to the invisible authority, God. Thus, the lines may mean: The person who is loved is missed. I myself am not really present. The reader is involved. And fourthly: God is not here.

translated from Danish by David McDuff

Over the Water I Walk (VII)- 1
Over the Water I Walk (VII)- 2
Over the Water I Walk (VII)- 3

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