Monday, 29 May 2023

Thor Sørheim: 'Musikk for vann og piano'




The hill outside the window has an irrigation system

that ripples away, unceasingly when I hear 

the pianist’s fingers race over white and black

keys. I am carried off in the descant rhythm of the music and

the deep crescendo of the bass line, and do not know if I am to cross

the footbridge with or without a bucket of water. The stream runs


under all piano pieces. Drained veins of water undermine

the hillside and fill the room with a longing for the music through

all channels. The clefts in the bedrock become visible, I hear

the torrent over volcanic rocks. In the movement there is the idea

of hovering, I can make out the sea in the far distance, the fire from

the sunset, before the piano concerto brings us to rest in the unfinished.


For Morten Moi



Thor Sørheim: 'Det snør'




It’s snowing, but there is nothing falling.

I walk along the road in February and feel 

I am almost airborne. The snow swirls, the wind

softens, there must be a change on the way.


There are edifying poems in the obituaries

and I think of Carl XII, the Swedish king

who attempted to lead his army over Lauvåsen ridge,

along the very road I am now following. Carolus


did not make it. Soldiers and peasants  were plentiful in

the entrenchments, admittedly, but the greatest obstacle

was the snow that had fallen thick and fast in March 1716.

The Swedish army had to cross the ridge in a column.


The deep snow prevented them from making a

fan-shaped attack, and their secret weapon was a failure.

I walk along the road that has lain here since the time

of the great migration, and cross in triumph.

Sunday, 28 May 2023

Thor Sørheim: 'Lista Fyr'




The green plain curves like a love-letter out towards

the sea. In spite of the pebble beach someone has written

LOVE with bright-coloured flowery letters. The wind presses

the clumps of grass flat. The lighthouse stands erect,


but a twin-brother lies slaughtered and dismembered in the wall.

Long-haired cows graze leisurely in the evening light. All you

need is love a loudspeaker claims from the sky. It takes time

To realise that under this flat countryside trenches spread out


like blood-vessels. We can see the remains of emplacements

and narrow ditches. The war bleeds in photographs from the First

World War on the Western front, others like on the edge of

Listalandet, and at Fetsund Battery they kept a sharp lookout across


Glomma towards the enemy. Present-day bombers, drones

and missiles cannot prevent war still being fought in

the earth’s crust. A trench dug with one’s own hands

is the closest one can ever get to a living hell.




Saturday, 27 May 2023

Thor Sørheim: 'Rutengjenger'




Nobody can claim with certainty that a dowsing rod, 

carved from a hazel bush and carried by a diviner

who holds it tightly with both hands with the point

twisting upwards, will twitch downwards and quiver towards 

the stone slab when passed over mineral deposits deep down


in the rock. Nobody, hand on heart, can say that it is impossible

for a diviner who walks cautiously through the forest

over heather and stony soil to feel that there is iron down

there along a fault line formed two million years

ago. I am no diviner when standing here at Gruvebakken,


which Tobias Kuper pointed out after having searched for ore

here in the 17th century. But I choose to believe that people

exist who with eye and hand can sense minute changes in nature

and the seasons. Like vigilant animals along pathways they will sense

with a rod that forebodes dangers lurking in covetous hearts.

I would refer you to Seamus Heaney's poem 'The Diviner' as analysed here. Also to a poem recently published on the blog on a similar theme by the Dutch poet Ida Gerhardt here.

Thor Sørheim: Det sitter i veggene'




The concrete in the Pantheon is two thousand years old,

and the dome arches up over me when I 

dive down from the Spanish Steps and let my gaze glide

along the walls and up to the opening at the very top

of the oldest temple we know. Is it the grace of the gods

that drifts down and lets us gain a glimpse of eternity, or


is it the walls that hold us in their curved hands so as

to lead our longing up towards a heaven that has given us the sun

and the stars, and for a long while hidden its myriads of planets

and distant galaxies until Galileo peeked behind the curtains? We

do not find God in the universe, I have more faith in the walls

of concrete that have withstood moisture and decomposition.


The walls do not leak, the walls of concrete contain lime

particles that originally come from the volcanic ash in the area

where Vesuvius is located. The ash from the earth’s interior is there

in the walls and seals the cracks when water trickles in. I pat the wall

cautiously and thank our ancestors in Antiquity, who must have suspected

that creation takes place where ash parts company with fire.




Thor Sørheim: 'Fullmånen' (2023)




When I hang a picture on the wall and the voice

behind me says a shade to the left, a bit up

with the right corner and watch the lower edge, it is not

the motif that is being placed in the desired position.


The sudden sunlight in January that fills

a city street with diagonal shadows, the stream

that trickles under the ice, the smell of ammonia

in a newly washed kitchen are sensed independently of me


before thought has mobilised the correct angles.

The senses dance, the dogmas are threaded on a string,

preferably well above the sewer in the back yard.

What the eyes discover and a kiss leads up to


give me insight into the dark enigmas without answer

when the moon hangs up the earth in its path

in front of the sun and lets its image be taken full-size

at precisely midnight, and always to the south.



Ida Gerhardt: 'De voorouders'


De Voorouders


Ik kan niet van hen spreken,

stel hen niet in gebreke;

ik werd achter mijn tanden stom.

Hun liefde en hun veten

gaan niet meer in mij om.

Er bleef alleen het teken:

brandmerk en adeldom.

Als een fossiel in zwarte lei.

Zij slapen. Eeuwen diep in mij.





I leave them quite unspoken,

dismiss their word oft broken:

behind my teeth my tongue lies still.

Their love and their rejection

have no more role to fill.

One sign’s their sole reflection:

their brand, noblesse of will.

Hid like a fossil in black slate.

Centuries deep. Asleep they wait.



Thursday, 25 May 2023

Ida Gerhardt: 'Zonsondergang'




De vogelen heb ik zien komen

voorbij het zonneoog.

Ik heb hen neder zien stromen:

van vleugelen wit en zwart,

van kreten wild en verward.

Tot de zon was ondergegaan.

Toen heb ik hen óp zien staan.

Duizenden vleugelen, geslagen,

waren als één vogel,– gedragen,

zwart, langs nachts baan.





The birds I have seen this way beaming

past the eye of the sun.

I have seen them downwards streaming:

the whole earth moved, overrun

with wings that were white and black

with cries a wild, tangled track.

Till the sun had sunk into night.

Then I’ve seen their soaring flight.

Thousands of wings that in their beating

were as of one bird,– borne retreating,

black, along night’s back.

Wednesday, 24 May 2023

Ida Gerhardt: 'Fair Ceridwen'


Fair Ceridwen


Die mij ontwijkt

is die ik graag win;

die voor mij prijkt

is die ik niet min.

Die mij ten dans vraagt

wil ik niet tot man.

O, dat zijn kan waagt

die hij het niet kan!



Fair Ceridwen


He who me spurns

I wish for alone;

who for me burns

my heart will not own.

Who with me would dance

I never shall wed.

Oh, would he but chance,

whose heart’s filled with dread!



The name Ceridwen comes from the Welsh – cerdd – meaning poetry

or song and – wen, (a contraction of gwen) – meaning white, fair or holy

 Ceridwen, according to Welsh legends and folklore, was a white witch

or goddess, and is considered to be the goddess of poetry, inspiration

and of the cauldron of transfiguration.



Tuesday, 23 May 2023

Ida Gerhardt: 'The fire'


Het vuur


                                 de doodgraver spreekt


De kleine Matthew Jones, dàt was er een:

de dominee stond verslagen van zijn vragen.

En rood haar dat hij had! Zó rood, daar kon

hij wel de brand mee in de hoeve steken.

Dit is zin steen. Dat wordt alweer vijf jaar.

Wie het gedaan heeft is nooit uitgekomen.

zijn vader noemde hem ‘mijn zwavelstok’,

zijn moeder zei altijd: ‘Mijn vurige jongen.’



The fire


the gravedigger speaks


The stripling Matthew Jones, now there was one:

the parson at his questions was dumbfounded.

A shock of red hair too! So red a thatch,

he could have set on fire the entire farmstead,

This is his stone. Five years already rounded.

And who the killer was remains unknown.

His father’s nickname was ‘my brimstone match’

his mother always said: ‘my fiery young’un’.