Thursday 31 March 2011

Another poem by Nordbrandt, this time from 'Offshore Wind'


A little into March summer suddenly
seems all too close:
One evening evening just goes on.
The darkness can’t put out
the white houses in the lyme grass on the dike.

Past and future are each other’s hostages.
The ransom money glitters
in the offshore wind on the far horizon
where no one can come.

So my travels resist
and erase the languages
where I for a while was me.

In all the world I have finally
always stayed at home.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

A poem by the Finnish writer Tua Forsström (who writes in Swedish)


Fish go to bed when darkness falls,
they cover themselves with sand and lie motionless
at night. Children close their eyes and suck
their thumbs behind rose-patterned curtains. But
flying fish hover on sleepless beneath the moon
six metres above the waves, eleven thousand metres
above the sediment and slime bed of the
Marianas Trench.

Friday 18 March 2011

A carillon poem by the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer


Madame despises her guests for wanting to stay at
        her seedy hotel.
I have a corner room on the first floor: an awful bed,
        a bulb hanging from the ceiling.
Oddly enough heavy hangings where a quarter of a million
        invisible mites are on the march.

Outside a pedestrian street goes past
with strolling tourists, fleet-footed schoolchildren, men
        dressed for work leading rattling bikes.
Those who think they make the world spin round and those who
        think they are helplessly spun round in the world’s grasp.
A street all of us take – where does it eventually lead us?

The only window in the room looks out over something else:
        The Wild Square,
a fermenting field, a huge trembling surface, sometimes full
        of people and sometimes deserted.
Everything I have within me materialises there – all my fears,
        all my hopes.
All the unthinkable that will even so occur.

I have low shores, if death rises eight inches or more
        I will be inundated.

I am Maximilian. The year is 1488. I am being held a prisoner
        here in Bruges
        because my enemies are at a loss –
        they are evil idealists and what they have done in the backyard
        of horrors I cannot describe, cannot transform blood
        into ink.

I am also the man in overalls pushing his rattling
        bike further down the street.

I am also the person who is visible, the tourist who walks and
        then stops, walks and then stops
letting his gaze wander over the pale moon-burnt faces and
        heaving material of the old paintings.

Nobody decides where I shall go, least of all myself,
        and yet each step is taken as it must be.
To walk around in the fossil wars where everyone’s invulnerable
        because everyone is dead!
The dusty masses of leaves, the walls with their
        openings, the garden paths where petrified tears
        crunch under heels...

Unexpectedly as if I had walked into a trip-wire the
        carillon starts up in the anonymous tower.
Carillon! The sack splits at its seams and
        the notes spill out across Flanders.
Carillon! The cooing iron, hymn and pop-song of the
        bells, all in one, and written quivering in the air.
With shaky hand the doctor wrote a prescription that no one can
        decipher though the handwriting is recognised...

Over roof and square, over grass and switch
Over living and dead their notes now roam.
Christ and Antichrist – which is which?
The bells will finally fly us home.

They have fallen silent.

I am back in my hotel room: the bed, the lamp,
        the hangings. Strange sounds can be heard here, the cellar
        is dragging itself up the stairs.

I lie on the bed, my arms outstretched.
I am an anchor that has dug down deep and
        that holds on

the huge shadow that is floating up there
the great unknown that I am a part of and that is certainly
        more important than I am.

Outside the pedestrian street goes past, the street where my
        footsteps die away as does what’s written, my preface to
        silence, my inverted, heretical hymn.

Thursday 17 March 2011

Poem by the Danish writer Klaus Rifbjerg

In Bellman’s time

Carl Michael Bellman
often felt quite atrocious
in the morning.
Carl Michael Bellman wanted
so much to have a quick drink
but knew it just wasn’t on.
Carl Michael Bellman’s mornings
were prosaic,
then he wrote poetry.
With seething stomach and liver
like a stone
Carl Michael Bellman sat
in his cold room and would have
given almost anything
for a glass of hock
or to see a tankard full of ale
but he stood his ground.
Carl Michael Bellman’s fingers
were sore and it hurt
to play the lute.
He played and looked out over
the chimney-topped roofs and the wet snow.
He said to himself:
Give up now, Carl Michael Bellman
throw your pen down now
and give up,
sell your lute now and mull
a glass of red wine with cloves
the devil take the lot of it.
He felt quite atrocious in the morning did
Carl Michael Bellman
To hell with you, Ulla & Movitz
it said inside his head
though on the paper different music came
(Your health, comrades, your health, dear sisters!)
and in the evening things were a bit better.

Thursday 10 March 2011

Poem by the Dutch writer Albert Hagenaars, from his three-language collection 'Palawija'


Behind glass I see you then,
as a copy in hardened synthetic resin
of the skull fragments compressed to stone:

Meganthropus Paleojavanicus.

Gone for good are the hair-covered skin,
the flat breasts with their long nipples
and the short hoarse sounds of the tongue

in which you warned, made love, died,

but not the strings of notional DNA
still spiralling in the woman with whom hand
in hand I stand before the dark showcase

and reconstruct your heavy features.

Your luxuriant world with predecessors
of elephant, buffalo and crocodile
is imperceptibly slowly buried

beneath layer upon layer of sediment.

After hundreds of thousands of years of waiting
you lift up your once so strong hands
of what is now caked grit.

reach out towards me

and want my mouth to breathe
life into her. I incorporate you
when our descendants survive

according to a theory far from proven yet.

For more information, go to here

Poem by the Dutch poet Ida Gerhardt


Here rests, her mouth now full of earth,
she who it was once bore me;
she who forever since my birth
has sought but to destroy me.

And now her body must decay
In me she has returned to stay.
– And her I cannot slay. –


You are of her: regard the stone:
The very names both of you own.
Accept your part. – I gaze on you.
Till she in peace will sleep anew.
Till you in peace will stand here too.

For other translations of poems by Gerhardt, go to here and here

Thursday 3 March 2011

New poem for his latest collection by the Swedish writer Lars Gustafsson

All iron longs to become rust,
said the old metallurgist

It wants to unite with the air
sink down to the bed of lakes

Become red earth. Not only iron
longs for its disintegration.

Utopias subside powerlessly
and become rhetoric. Even

proud monotheism rusts
away and becomes pleasantly

teeming amoral
polytheism. Sharp blades

gleaming swords and heavy axes
never last eternally.

All iron strives to become rust.
Said the old metallurgist.