Tuesday 28 January 2014

A poem by Ivan Malinowski from 'Galgenfrist' (short respite)

Still Life

The general leans his cheek against the general’s wife’s
a caress begun in 1908
stares furiously at the dusty palms and spider’s web’s portières
a drop stands motionless in the wind while the house rises measuredly skywards
and black snails invade the garden room
with large white astonished eye they hesitate at first on the threshold
then transform themselves into tears
that roll across the floor in gleaming trails

the night is an ear that yawns itself out of joint
a gurgling in hidden pipes
the one-eyed owl sighs deeply from its perch on the sideboard
under the chaiselongue the moon
catches a ball of combed-off hair a greying fledgling
a matchless kelim (Pirot 1840) arches its back and squeaks like a rat
while the mosquitoes whisper hoarsely about Walt Whitman’s private life

now the ache has found its tooth and the bullet its stiffened chest
the general his life’s his death’s proud Atlantis
it is accomplished
the Cossack Oedipus on his stallion on the plain on the wall
has found his grave the limitation (the fine balance)
only the table linen is still waiting for its rightful apparation
only time its scissors only the eye its gleam only the stones are a strong redeemer

oblivion has forgotten these images and thunder always drifts over
the tongue of daybreak steals off a different way
the garden’s marble doves have perched on the retina
the wrought-iron spears deep in this flesh
Meissen will always be Meissen and the soul immortal
(how long immortality
how long this blind bitter open lens this tower that falls down
so great a loneliness how long)

Monday 27 January 2014

A poem from 'Palimpsest' by the Danish writer Klaus Høeck


all those that i have
loved or almost all of them
have disappeared now

through a hole in the
poem gone overnight
in a maelstrom of

words and ashes i
haven’t any idea what’s
become of them but

i believe in the
dead and am therefore what’s known
as insane – amen

Thursday 23 January 2014

'At the edge of the abyss' - one of David Koker's included poems

Ditty of the bitter end. Rondel

A dismal fate we’ve been accorded
sheer boredom to the bitter end
when the last few of us as sordid
smoke-pall from the stack ascend

So too my verse is disappearing
before that happens though I’ve penned
who knows if it will reach your hearing
this ditty of the bitter end

The smoke ends up by dissipating
and I have no more strength to spend
Better to straightway face cremating
as smoke-pall from a stack ascend
than years of boredom and of waiting
with even so that bitter end.

Friday 17 January 2014

'Sous le pont Mirabeau' in English


The Mirabeau bridge

Under the Mirabeau bridge flows the Seine
       And all our loves
     Why does it make so plain
That any joy must always follow pain
     Let the night come the hour sound clear
     The days all pass I’m still here

Our hands intertwined let’s stay face to face
       While far below
     The bridge of our arms strays
The languid wave of each endless gaze
     Let the night come the hour sound clear
     The days all pass I’m still here

Our love drifts away like these waters flow
       Love drifts away
     And our lives are so slow
With Hope more violent than we could know
     Let the night come the hour sound clear
     The days all pass I’m still here.

The days and weeks pass in a ceaseless train
       But no past time
     Or past love comes again
Under the Mirabeau bridge flows the Seine
     Let the night come the hour sound clear
     The days all pass I’m still here.

Thursday 16 January 2014

A famous Ingemann 'Evening Song' poem, set to music by Weyse

stay with us when day’s fast waning

Stay with us when day’s fast waning,
You dearest Father and Lord!
Stay with us, when dark long-straining
Floods through night-sluice’s door!

O’er hill and dale spread out neatly
A hem of your star-strewn gown!
Then by you our eyes close sweetly
When we have laid us down.

Stay with us, and we’ll be dreaming
Of peace angel-children know;
Your spirit from heaven streaming
Will shower on us below.

The Lord of Life’s realm would dearly
His youngest ones all embrace;
On angel-ladder propped sheerly
Mount children’s souls apace.

Stay with us when day’s fast waning,
You dearest Father and Lord;
And Paradise-light long-straining
Floods through night-sluice’s door!

Wednesday 15 January 2014

A poem by the Norwegian writer
Thor Sørheim


After a thousand-year sleep willow-scrub
and bushes parted, and I was staring straight at
traces of hammer and chisel, furrows in the rock,
where our forefathers had hewn out
items for cooking vessels and stone for buildings
that would be graced with ornaments. There where the path

meets the sheer rockface under Piggåsen
a Viking society once climbed up ladders
and hung on ropes over the steep slope to extract
the new age from the soft rock. At the foot
of the soapstone quarry rose their daybreak dreams
of sales and exports for every pot
that was hewn out base first, history

was at stake and maybe the pots were
thread on sticks by their handles and carried
between two sleek shoulders over the moraine ridge
down to the boats in Glomma. When a thousand years later
I try to conjure up a picture, leaning against the quarried surface,
of the man tilting free the mouth-edge of the pot

from the mountain, I discover that the projection I am stroking
is an item that was never taken out, and the hollows

with water and the soapy crust that hardens gives me
no other answer than that one day our era too
will, with all our dreams and exploits, end up in some
far corner of the universe, like every creation myth,
beautiful, fully interpreted and unfinished.

Friday 10 January 2014

A poem by Craig Raine in Danish translation

I lighuset

Som bløde oste buler de ud
på marmorpladerne,

hjælpeløse, ventende på at blive vasket.
Bomuld hænger fast i totter

på ligpasserens tang,
dens knirkende formål fuldendt . . .

Han kalder kvinden for ‘mutter’,
en kugleramme af transpiration

på panden, til trods for kulden.
Og hun er den sædvanlige kvinde –

to brystvorter af terrakotta
som lapper fra en cykelæske,

rådvilde knæ, fint
sammenkrøllet hud omkring øjnene,

og hendes mave som et vandmærke
holdt op mod lyset.

Særlige kendetegn: ingen.
Øjenfarve: lukket.

Et eller andet sted, i en kuvert
i en skuffe, hendes briller . . .

Et andet sted, ikke her, ved nogen
at hendes hår er skilt forkert

og bekymrer sig om disse spindelvæv
i kroppens kroge.

Tuesday 7 January 2014

A poem by Lars Forssell

Whatever you may say

Whatever you may say
about faithlessness and deceit
there stands an oak at the world’s centre
with roots deep down into the earth mantle
deep down in the Interior

And a motionless owl
blinks in the tree
on the very thickest branch
Alertly, attentively it looks at us
with its round yellow eyes
And beneath the tree sits a god
that has cut himself a reed
and carved holes for the fingers
and when he blows on it out fly
arrows of sound
Not of the kind that kill
outside the ear and calmness

There is a sense of security
It feels good
and if you lean back against the trunk
under the owl’s gaze
you can feel a trust
and assurance in everything
in spite of everything
you have experienced or read
about Doomsday and Destruction

It is as if the tree stood in your heart
In its crown there is a gentle murmuring
and the flute sounds
and the owl’s eye is yellow like a sun.

Monday 6 January 2014

Another amazing Dèr Mouw to start the year off

’k Sta naar ’t schitt’rend oranje in ’t west te kijken:
als fijne, zwarte tralies staan de abelen;
de blaadjes schijnen met het licht te spelen,
om ’t op te vangen, als ’t er door komt strijken.

’k Zie om: het amethyst in ’t oost verdelen
in trossen blauwe-regen diepgroene eiken;
aan de ogen, vol topazenglorie, lijken
de abelen trilgras van paarse juwelen.

Op Brahman, wereldgrond, schijnen de dingen
à jour gewerkte scherts: door de openingen
golft onbelemmerd stralende eeuwigheid.

Het denken, moe van God, keert van Zijn luister
zich gretig-aards vaak af naar kleurig duister
en weldadig koele verganklijkheid.

At West’s now glitt’ring orange I stand gazing:
where poplars rise like fine bars, black and slight;
it seems the smallish leaves play with the light,
to intercept it in its passing grazing.

I turn: in the East the deep-green oak trees sliver
its amethyst to blue-rain-clustered strands;
to topaz-splendoured eyes, the poplars stand
like mauve-jewel quaking grass that’s all a-quiver.

Against the world’s ground, Brahman, earthly things
seem jesting drawn-work, through whose openings
dazzling eternity unhampered wells.

Yet, tired of God, thought often turns away
from radiance to the dark where colours play
and where cool, salutory transience dwells.

Friday 3 January 2014

A poem by the Flemish poet Hugo Claus


It is recounted that when the noblemen of Flanders
were received at the court of the French king
they were shabbily asked to sit on wooden benches.
At which the gentlemen divested themselves of their coats,
folded and rolled up
those coats of velvet, brocade and ermine
and then sat on them as on cushions
which they left lying there after the assembly.

- ‘Oh, hello there, seigneurs flamands,
you’re forgetting your beautiful expensive coats!’
The Flemings shrugged their shoulders
and said: ‘French gentlemen, regard this
as a small present for your king.’

That was in the thirteenth century, people say.
Today you can hear at night
in the palaces of Brussels our seigneurs flamands
busy with their language conflict,
baiting, snarling, geo-politically opportune.
They grind their teeth
for they’re thinking of their voters
Ye, my lords, see what ye do
and so leave that drab jacket of de Voerstreek
lined with rancune,
sewn in impotence
woven in interests,
behind on the Walloon wooden bench.
A small present.

*De Voerstreek/Les Fourons [Fr.] is an area which is a symbol of the conflict between the Flemish and Walloon peoples.

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Karin Boye - a poem that doesn't ever let go of you

I would meet…

Upright, armed, encased in armour
I strode out –
though with chain-mail forged of shame and
fearful doubt.

I would cast aside my weapons,
sword and shield.
All the outer hostile husk that
kept me chilled.

I have seen the dry seeds at long
last unfurl.
I have seen the light-green leaves as
they uncurl.

Tender life has force with which no
iron contends,
surfacing from earth’s deep heart with
no defence.

Where I froze in winter wastes dawn
springs afresh.
I would meet life’s mighty forces