Thursday, 24 February 2011

Two Poems

by Pia Tafdrup


The world was old
even before
it was born,
for no one learns
from others’ experience,
  only by making
the mistakes oneself
over and over again.
Atlas, globe, map, 
the world was discovered, 
  only not by me…
In the heart is
the signpost
    I follow.
What else can I
so exactly
navigate by?

Not a stone in the shoe 
that chafes long before 
it registers as stone, 
but a stone on the road, 
                   a stumbling stone, 
that suddenly makes the heart 
pound in the chest, as waves 
roll from foreign shores 
  in towards the coast, 
where I grew up, 
  into the poems I write. 
A stone 
between before and after 
at an insurmountable distance 
on a hot day 
without a cloud in the sky. 
A stone, 
lying as it does, 
  sun up there 
  stone down here 
substance, matter, 
in order to point out 
that I am scarcely
on the road –
but the  mind is racing. 
What does a person think of 
  while walking? 
Not necessarily of travel, 
the legs walk by themselves, 
once they've learned 
  to walk. 
Quite often the person thinks about
not having much time 
                 to live, 
thinks about events that are 
like scars in the heart 
or about changing 
for the better, at least 
I walk on the road 
the mind is racing 
            over a wayless terrain, 
                           far beyond this present now. 

(from Trækfuglens kompas, 2010)

translated from Danish by David McDuff

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Göteborg Poets in Ukraine

The cover of Lev Hrytsyuk's new anthology of work by 18 Göteborg poets, which he has translated into Ukrainian. The book has 244 pages, and is published by Krok.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Bo Carpelan

It's sad to read of Bo Carpelan's passing - in many ways he was the last remaining representative of the classical Finland-Swedish modernist poetry tradition. If anyone feels like reading some of my translations of Carpelan's poetry, there's an excerpt from one collection here.

As far as my own role in making Carpelan's work better known outside Finland is concerned, there isn't really much to say: for several years I worked with him on getting two of his novels (Axel and Urwind) into an English format he was more or less happy with, as well as three collections of his poetry - the latter were published in a single volume by Carcanet Press in 1993. Although Carpelan came from an upper-class Finland-Swedish background, and Axel is in some ways a spiritual and intellectual history of Finland-Sweden, there was little in his essential artistic and aesthetic orientation that could be called specifically Finnish or Swedish: while he gravitated towards Anglo-American literature, his ideal was an international one, and like his contemporary Tove Jansson he reached out to a wider audience. He was a shrewd, kind and occasionally stubborn man who wanted to find the way home, both for himself and for his contemporaries everywhere:

A few words sought their way close up to me
as though they sought protection from something
that was too difficult to see. I wrote them down.
This they taught me, the words that came:
farewells are part of everything that is
and, when I have dreamt most strongly,
a homecoming.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Bo Carpelan (1926-2011)

The Literary Saloon notes that the Finland-Swedish poet and novelist Bo Carpelan has passed away at the age of 84:
quote: He was two-time winner of the Finlandia Prize (for Urwind and Berg), and also won the Nordic Council Literature Prize. See, for example, the books and writers page on him, or this interview at Books from Finland.

Quite a few of his books have been translated into English, including the interesting Axel; see the Northwestern University Press publicity page, or get your copy at or
Update: Pekka Tarkka has written an in memoriam.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

German as a gateway language

In Publishing Perspectives, Amanda DeMarco notes that German is becoming a gateway language for literary translations from Icelandic.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Icelandic literary awards

Via Iceland Review
The poetry book Blódhófnir ("Bloodhoof") by Gerdur Kristný and Sveppabókin (“The Mushroom Book”) by Helgi Hallgrímsson received the 2010 Icelandic Literary Award at a special ceremony at Bessastadir, the presidential residence, on Wednesday [February 2].

Hat tip: Literary Saloon

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

David Vikgren

In Hbl, Ralf Andtbacka reviews Norrbotten poet David Vikgren's latest collection of verse, and also a volume of Vikgren's and others' translations of the poems of the 17th century Tornedal Finnish poet Antti Keksi. Andtbacka notes that Folkmun, the new collection, is more accessible than Vikgren's two previous books, and his opinion is that this is "en imponerande och oroande diktsamling som man inte blir klar med i första taget."

Incidentally, I recently found an online selection of Vikgren's early work, and an interview with him, at this link (pdf).

Tuesday, 1 February 2011