Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Pia Tafdrup: Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 5


Many things have never been given a name, because they are intangible. The depths of the sky and the beating of waves cannot be easily made precise, and yet the sense of infinity can be written as a network of distinctive images.

My poems attempt to give linguistic form to psychological and existential states, or to metaphysical dimensions for which I had no words before. Each word has its own sound and its own meaning, it points to something, but when the word is freed from its referential context it becomes capable of entering into a new totality – and re-emerges in another sphere.


Language contains large, abstract words which are particularly difficult to use in a poem: yearning, lack, pain, soul, and so on. Words of that kind cannot support a poem, even though they are deeply felt – or precisely because of that. Instead, it is the poem’s task to support them, in a dialectical tension.


When one considers that the material is language and the body is the instrument, the writing of poems is a strangely silent activity.


Only when language attains the character of material can it be shaped.


To see language solely as a material is too reductive. The words are an independent world freed from the rest of the world. A kind of realm of freedom, a realm of sounds from which the “I” discovers itself as an existing being. Language is a possibility that is one of the most exalted.


An animal can produce sounds that signal hunger, or that call to its mate, but it can never name the specific. All we know is that whales sing, or dolphins communicate over long distances. Animals probably have a form of consciousness which human beings have so far managed to suppress, but it is not language in the sense in which human beings develop it. The nuances in our language are unique, and we are equipped with a very impatient instinct to make use of its many functions. Creating, dreaming and remembering.

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
Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 4

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

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