Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Four poems by Wava Stürmer

Several Ostrobothnian authors used to meet at what used to be Stockmann's café, Jakobstad, every Tuesday lunchtime at two o'clock during my year living there in 1978-79. One of them was the poet Wava Stürmer. She was born in the Belgian Congo in 1929, will therefore be eighty this year:

There is in us all
a mild sea.
The light refracts on the surface.
The stones at the bottom
cannot be seen.
The sand moves
when the waves want
when the wind wants.

So many rains
that people have lived
so old is mankind.

The same rain
runs down our faces
and we don't know
whether we're crying.


Not even the sea
has freedom without shores.

Only has winds.


The waves
are like mountains
congealed in movement.

The light is there
in the wing of the gull
when it scratches
the silk of the heavens.

The creature
on the mountain summit
no longer human
not yet a bird.


The land
we cannot travel to

Rain falls and snow.

We must
not even

But the images
burst their way up.

Messengers from a future
we have already passed.


Poems, even short unrhymed ones such as these, can be translated in various ways. I maintain that translating poetry is harder than translating prose. There are hidden rhythms, allusions. So too here. Later, I will discuss some of the problems I had when doing these swift drafts.

The poems are the first four of the 1990 collection Så länge vi minns, published by Söderströms, Helsinki.


David McDuff said...

I think these poems are very effective in your translation.

Eric Dickens said...

They're also effective in the original. It is a very moving collection, written, I presume, after Åke Stürmer, Wava's husband, had died.

There is a very interesting book of written portraits of, & interviews with Ostrobothnian authors (plus the odd photo) called "Skulle det bli BRÖSTTONER? - svenskösterbottniska författarporträtt". The title comes from a poem by Anna Bondestam, but I don't understand the connotation. Published by Scriptum.

The Wikipedia article on Wava Stürmer is, alas, nothing but a list of works. But there are impressively many: 20 books of either prose or poetry between 1955 and 2007. See also:


By the way, this Nordic Voices thread was on Google, when I Googled for Wava Stürmer.