By Inger Christensen

Offered the American-Scandinavian PEN Translation Prize by means of Michael Hamburger, Susanna Nied's translation of alphabet introduces Inger Christensen's poetry to US readers for the 1st time. Born in 1935, Inger Christensen is Denmark's top recognized poet. Her award-winning alphabet is predicated structurally on Fibonacci's series (a mathematical series during which each one quantity is the sum of the 2 earlier numbers), together with the alphabet. the beautiful poetry herein displays a posh philosophical history, but has a visionary caliber, researching the metaphysical within the easy stuff of lifestyle. In alphabet, Christensen creates a framework of psalm-like kinds that spread like increasing universes, whereas crystallizing either the sweetness and the possibility of destruction that permeate our instances.

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1666 I The news from Delft is still the same: plague has returned, the ships have left, while farther north the sea at Haarlem is flat and gray, cold as the deft chill lens that amplifies this room unto itself, history being elsewhere and unknowable. Though Clio may consume provinces, countries, her golden hair is wrapped in laurel, securely intact, while what remains is what is seen in deep perspective, the painted fact of light that dwells, this dwelling scene. 26 II Another child is dead and buried, the cold clods raining upon his casket no longer heard, lost to the harried wastes of time where an angel’s trumpet lifts its muted anthem toward infinity.

Outside, blustery March wind showers New York with trash, while I imagine September stirs the salmon to their final run into the bay. What I’ve passed, you’ve begun six months ago, three thousand miles away, and nothing for it but sit down, pick up a pen, rummage that bulging file—What Might Have Been— (I imagine you there. ) to offer at least this poem’s late reprise jetting across these fifty United States, where, this morning, I sit alone in one, you in another, both of us knowing our separate lives and loves in separate ways, the private turn of the heart that is a day .

Who’d have thought that I could tire of Becky, envying now her drug-like calm. She’d insist my moods were hallucinations brought on by stress, though deep inside my newfound heart I felt raw as a septic wound. ” she said. “It’s just a passing phase. They may be dead and dying, but tell me, where’s the odds in that? Miles, we’re built for lasting. ” 21 And yet, plagued by constant low-grade longing, I felt a failure. Reveries at sunset, anxieties at noon, even my memory held me prisoner, reaching back for songs whose meaning I once knew but had forgotten, such as It’s summer and the moon is full and I know a bank where the wild thyme grows, unconscious urgings driving me crazy until late one night I packed a bag, and breathing hard, stood alone downstairs, my heart lit up with panic, guilt knocking at its walls.

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