Thursday, 2 July 2009

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


Norms are bound up with conventions, with the expected. Art involves the opposite. Here all preconceptions must be got out of the way so that something can begin. The words are already there, but the poetic dimension only reveals itself during the creative act. It is when the elements are put together that the work of art arises. What matters is the way in which I use them. The words derive their value from what I put into them. Each time, a conquest and a new creation takes place.

To be a poet requires a certain amount of defiance. I cannot take everything for granted, cannot assume control of language with its lacunae. My editing and instrumentalization are what decide how successful the poem will be.


“The Plough, how fast does it go?,” my son asks.


Language makes a distinction between the actual world and the world of language, but writing should not be an excuse for avoiding the making of things.


Different languages rarely have the same word for the same object. Apart from a few examples of onomatopoeia, there is no relation that connects the sound with the word’s content. A word is not an adequate expression for reality, it is not identical with the object, is rather a symbol in relation to it. The letters are there, but everything else is missing. Language signals absence, but does not rank any lower on the scale of reality for that reason. Language constitutes a part of reality.


Even though language does not designate a reality, If I say “bird”, a concrete bird is absent, but the image of a bird is summoned forth. The idea of “bird” appears at the arbitrary sound of the word “bird”. If I say ‘knife’, correspondingly a knife appears on the inner video, but two different individuals will not see the same bird or the same knife. In poetry it is not the object but the word that is the centre. Poetry is an end in itself. The referential function is however a constituent feature of language, which not even a poet can escape… The problem with the critique of language is that poetry is considered in its isolated poetic function, where it is insufficient, because it is art. The condition for art is that one should suspend total referentiality. For language contains degrees of referential meaning. There are poems that point very directly, and others where the words have broken free in such a way that they are inwardly connected in an unusual manner. The words must have "five fingers on each hand", as Sophus Claussen says. The words must be valid. They must be able to catch hold of one another. Or they must function like a molecular model, in which each atom has its own value and can connect with the others in widely differing formations.

translated from Danish by David McDuff

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

Note: the posts with the translated text of Chapters I, II and III can be accessed here, here, and here.

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