Tuesday, 15 April 2014

A Klaus Høeck to start the day

ode to the third day

and then god said: let
the earth put forth green shoots and
it came to pass and

god then mixed himself
a whacking great portion of
waldorf salad with the

all the trimmings the
whole caboodle lots of cel
ery and of whipped

cream the first portion
in the world and god tasted 
it and it was good

Monday, 14 April 2014

Sonnet time again - one from Lars Gustafsson

Sonnet XXVII

To one below the surface of the ice
the ice itself looks as if something white
and openings and wind wells where still quite
open water moves, look, if there’s a slice

of daylight left, as if expanses fraught
with darkness. And only he who knows aright
an exit lies in what is dark, that white
means darkness (that ice can so distort

conditions as they’re pictured by the eye)
and who, against his instinct, swims away
from light towards the dark sees day again.

There is, once a small habit stirs, or by
a word that changes meaning, a chance, though stray,
of someone getting out. That he sees day again.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

This one surprised me - one more from Lars Gustafsson

When did people’s mouths get wet?

The small boy asks: Lars,
when did people’s mouths get wet?

What? Well I think
they were wet from the start.

They’re certainly wet in the womb.
There it’s always wet anyway.

Certain things make them wetter,
that’s for sure.

Yes, people’s mouths have always been wet.

Being wet comes to an end.
But there’s no particular day it starts.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

A bumblebee poem by Lars Gustafsson

Bombus terrestris

When the air lies still, so too lie the lakes,
the great bright lakes, like quicksilver.

Sleeping dogs’ breathing grows ever more rapid.
The deepest sounds of all are felt as tremblings.

And held hidden in large organ pipes,
sixteen-footers and more, till it’s time.

But out of small holes in the ground sound emerges.

When air pressure falls, sounds of far trains get smothered,
they soundlessly change and move from track to track.

A flyer who lives in the depths of the forest
has folded its wings, is asleep in the rain.

It is not at the start and not at the end.
It is mainland, vast tracts that are far

within maps and deep within time,
a protective forest of years on all sides,

and the larks soar up like a jubilant cloud,
but always some will fall dead, and be gone.

Far too warm to freeze, far too cold
to reside, so far within the world

A backhanded winter, seasons inverted, a year that’s reversed.
When the air lies still, so too lie the lakes.

But at the lowest height, a hand’s breadth above the ground
the temperature changes distinctly: two degrees warmer

and some stifled brown sounds.
All natural science is a question of warmth

and obscuring low clouds.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

An early Lars Gustafsson

The balloonists

See the tall man in the top-hat there.
He leans out with a gaze fixed westwards.
It’s early morning, and the light reverberates.

The town with its clocks waits in the distance
the church spires cast blue shadows aimlessly.
It is completely silent, pre-departure.

Close to, the balloon is huge, like some giant pumpkin
that gleams and grows, it has many colours.
The hum of those who watch: a swarm of bumblebees,

they call out, wave to the voyagers in the basket,
who feign indifference, will not let on their destination.
They’re motionless themselves and ready for their trip.

The man in the top-hat has still not ceased to gaze
and lifts a telescope of gleaming brass
as if he searched for clouds or something that’s invisible.

When they ascend they will diminish to a point
until they reach the highers layers of air and snow,
the whitest snow that chills and blinds

will fill the air they breathe, will touch their foreheads.
In autumn it can be seen to fall as frost
the breath of upper air that gropes across the fields,

and you one autumn when the frost falls early
will suddenly recall them and their trip,
and how they still are climbing, dizzily yet higher

through a thinner air than that of winters
with a note like that of splintering glass
from forest depths of brittle rain

and how they rise yet higher through the years
until the very memory sings like slivvered glass.
– and is unbearable, forget me, rather something else!

A pleasure trip, a connoisseurs’ adventure!
A gentleman, light morning-coat and bright-blue waistcoat,
that slowly makes a glove-embellished gesture.

It is free, already it begins to rise,
the cheering imperceptibly sinks down.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

What did Andersen actually write? A new draft translation of 'The Princess and the Pea'

The princess and the pea

There was once a prince – he wanted a princess for himself, but she had to be a real princess. So he travelled all over the world to try and find one, but everywhere there was something wrong – there were plenty of princesses, but he couldn’t quite make out if they were real princesses or not; there was always something that wasn’t quite right. So he went back home, but he felt so miserable because he wanted so much to have a real princess.
One evening a terrible storm blew up, thunder rolled and lightning flashed. The rain came pouring down – it was really dreadful! Then there came a knock at the city gate, and the old king went to open it.
A princess was standing outside. But good gracious me, what a state she was in from the rain and the awful weather! The water streamed down from her hair and her clothes, ran in at the toes of her shoes and out at the heels – and what’s more she said she was a real princess.
‘We’ll soon find out about that!’ the old queen thought to herself, but she didn’t say anything, just went into the bedroom, took off all the bedclothes and placed a pea at the bottom of the bed, then took twenty mattresses, placed them on top of the pea, and a further twenty eiderdowns on top of the mattresses.
It was there the princess was to sleep for the night.
In the morning, they asked her how she had slept.
‘Oh, simply awfully!’ the princess replied. ‘I’ve hardly slept a wink all night! Goodness only knows what there must have been in the bed. I’ve been lying on something hard and am absolutely black and blue all over! It’s simply awful!’
Then they could see that she was a real princess, for she had noticed the pea through the twenty mattresses and the twenty eiderdowns. Nobody could be that tender-skinned unless she was a real princess.
So the prince made her his wife, for now he knew that he had a real princess, and the pea ended up in the cabinet of curiosities, where it can still be seen – providing no one has taken it.
Now, that was a real story!

Monday, 31 March 2014

Another Lars Gustafsson

Ballad on the paths in Västmanland

Beneath the visible writing of small roads,
gravelled roads, farm tracks, often with a comb
of grass in the middle between deep wheel ruts,
hidden beneath clear-felling’s tangle of brushwood,
still legible in the dried-up moss,
there is another script: the old paths.
They go from lake to lake, from long valley
to long valley. At times they deepen,
become quite distinct, and large bridges
of medieval stone carry them over bare flat rocks,
one easily loses them in marshy ground, so
imperceptible that at one moment they are there,
the next not. There is a continuation,
there is always a continuation, as long as
one looks for it, these paths are persistent,
they know what they want and with their knowledge
they combine considerable cunning.
You walk eastwards, the compass persistently shows east,
the path faithfully follows the compass, like a straight line,
everything is in order, then the path swings northwards.
In the north lies nothing. What does the path want now?
Soon you come to a huge bog, and the path knew that.
It leads us around, with the reassurance of one
who has been this way before. It knows where the bog lies,
it knows where the rockface gets far too steep, it knows
what happens when it goes north instead of south
of the lake. It has done all of this
so many times previously. That is the whole point
of being a path. That it has been done
before. Who made the path? Charcoal burners, fishermen,
women with skinny arms collecting firewood?
Outlaws, timid and grey as the moss,
still in their dream with the fratricide blood
on their hands. Autumn hunters in the wake
of trusty foxhounds with their frost-clear bark?
All and none of them. We make it together,
you too make it on a windy day when
it is early or late on the earth:
We write the paths, and the paths remain,
and the paths are wiser than we are,
and know all that we would like to know.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Behind stage in a Sestina by Lars Gustafsson


Det fanns en tid när varje stund var hel.
Som tennisbollen där den hänger en
nålvass hundradels sekund och väntar
över nätet. Inte “nyss” och inte “snart
utan en tredje, som är allt vi ser.
Det andra är förhoppning eller tid

som var, men inte min, en annans tid.
Det torra slaget gör dig åter hel.
Det är den enda verklighet vi ser.
Förhoppningar och minnen fyller en
till stor del tilfällig personlighet; snart
ser man hur på nästa boll den väntar.

Men vem är det som står beredd och väntar?
All tid äts upp av tankarna på tid
som var, eller att något händer snart.
Förhoppningar och resten minnen. Hel
blir bara den som inte längre ser en
annan boll i bollen som han ser.

En sådan händelse vi faktiskt ser
är mera anonym än någon väntar.
Förgångna år och furstarna som en
gång fanns tycks leva i en stelnad tid.
Med namn gör vi den brustna krukan hel.
Den bärs försiktigt till en brunn som snart

tycks djup och full av starka röster. Snart
är kvar ett ensamt eko och du ser
den ljusa vattenspegeln som är hel.
Där nere ligger den och väntar
så oåtkomlig. Den är du. Din tid
är kort. En enda sten är nog. Och en

blir tusen skärvor som glittrar i en
brunn emot vars gråstensväggar det snart
syns flimrande reflexer. Som är tid.
Den enda tid som vi förstår. Vi ser
i skärvor. I en stelnad pose vi väntar.
Det torra slaget gör dig åter hel.

Vi lever in en namnlös värld. Vi ser.
Vi dör så snart vi minns; dör och väntar.
Det fanns en tid när varje stund var hel.


There was a time each single grain was whole.
As is the tennis ball when hanging a
razor-sharp hundredth of a second, waiting
above the net. Not ‘recently’ or ‘soon’
but a third something, which is all we see.
The rest is expectation or is time

that was, not mine though, someone else’s time.
The clean shot is what once more makes you whole.
This is the sole reality we see.
Expectations and memories fill a
mainly random personality, soon
for the next ball you can see it waiting.

Who is it though that stands there ready waiting?
All time is eaten up by thoughts of time
that was, or something that will happen soon.
Expectations and the rest memories. Whole
is only he who no longer sees a
second ball in the ball there is to see.

Such an event as that we really see
is more anonymous than we were waiting
for. Years and princes existing in a
past age seem to live in a stiffened time.
By name we make the broken vessel whole.
It’s borne with caution to a well that soon

seems deep and full of powerful voices. Soon
only a lonely echo’s left – you see
the water’s gleaming mirror, which is whole.
It lies down there below you waiting,
so inaccessible. It’s you. Your time
is brief. A single stone’s enough. And a

thousand splinters now glitter in a
well against whose grey-stone sides there soon
play flickering reflections. Which are time.
The only time we understand. We see
in splinters. In stiffened pose stand waiting.
The clean shot is what once more makes you whole.

We all live in a nameless world. We see.
We die as soon as we recall; die waiting.
There was a time each single grain was whole.

The sestina follows a strict pattern of the repetition of the initial six end-words of the first stanza through the remaining five six-line stanzas, culminating in a three-line envoi. The lines may be of any length, though in its initial incarnation, the sestina followed a syllabic restriction. The form is as follows, where each numeral indicates the stanza position and the letters represent end-words:
7. (envoi) ECA or ACE
The envoi, sometimes known as the tornada, must also include the remaining three end-words, BDF, in the course of the three lines so that all six recurring words appear in the final three lines. In place of a rhyme scheme, the sestina relies on end-word repetition to effect a sort of rhyme.

An alphabet poem by Lars Gustafsson

The logonaut

I have spent my life
ordering the letters of the alphabet
in various ways. Dealing and shuffling.
Into a reasonably long string:
a long ski-track across white expanses.
The alphabet in Sweden has twenty-eight letters,
And then the twenty-ninth
the empty letter between the words
Which has no name.
Just as nought has no value.
That is why it is irreplacable.