Sunday, 7 June 2009

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


When my generation of poets were publishing their first collections, I quite often heard other poets muttering from the sidelines: is it really new, what they’re bringing out? But surely life, love, loss, longing, death and decay are subjects still worth writing about? Isn’t it the task of all human beings to discover for themselves the things that have always existed? No one can ever lay claim to the experiences of others. The only possible avenue of progress is to fight one’s own way forward. Could the resistance of those poets have had something to do with the fact that the thought the world and mankind were new?

What is given is a supply of collective raw material from which I as a creative individual create the personal subject-matter of my poems. Alternatively, my subject-matter may simply be seen as part of a common stock of raw material. It is the same ontology and possibly also the same attention-radius, but my focus is another, my contexts and interpretations are different, as their existential context takes the form of a specific era in history. And again: my poems are coloured by my nature and temperament.


The modern should not be viewed as the loss of a past. On the other hand, however, one can may hunt about in the modern in order to see what existed in the past. In the modern it survives in a new and unexpected form. For no idea that is brought into the world ever leaves it again. Something can be forgotten, but then reappear and be reactivated. Books influence one another, but the notion that one great common work is being written is a utopia. The idea is a clever one, but it implies a united, shared perspective that is no longer applicable to our time. On the other hand: now and then I am seized by the mad idea that the planet is kept floating in space, constantly rotating and held aloft by all of us writers… As long as we write in the remembrance of the origins of our unique position.


In art, revolution inevitably leads to classicism, as Mandelstam put it.


The books that have meant the most to me? The Bible, the Anatomical Atlas and the Dictionary of the Danish Language.

translated from Danish by David McDuff

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

Note: the posts with the translated text of Chapter I can be accessed here.

1 comment:

Eric Dickens said...

Tafdrup makes a valid point about the individual response to things that happen to us all. So there is always a tension between the new and the old. Collective raw material, and all that - but with a personal response.

Mandelstam's oxymoron is also interesting.