Heather's Reviews > Light, Grass, and Letter in April

Light, Grass, and Letter in April by Inger Christensen
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's review
Nov 02, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: library-books, poetry, literature-in-translation
Read from October 30 to November 02, 2011

I read Inger Christensen's it back in 2007 and don't remember it very well: I just remember it being difficult, prickly. I picked up this new volume, which is really three volumes in one, as much because of the cover image as anything else.

Light and Grass were Christensen's first books, from 1962 and 1963; Letter in April is from 1979. I liked the latter the best, though there were moments in the first two that I appreciated. Some of the poems, particularly in the first two books, are too abstract for me; I feel like I can't find a point of entry or anything to grasp. But there are turns of phrase and images I really like, particularly when Christensen's writing about the natural world or the turning seasons, like in the first two lines of a poem called "Sandemose," after a Danish/Norwegian author: "The sun hangs low in the little year/the bracken ponders darkness" (10). I like this, from the end of "Deep Within": "what are we and to what do we cling/at sea two hearts with flares on board" (38). And this, from the start of "Light":
Once more I recognize
a light within language
the closed words
that are there to be loved
and repeated until they are simple (45)

Letter in April features drawings by Johanne Fosse, and an interesting structure: as Susanna Nied explains in her introduction, it contains seven main sections, each of which has "five subsections, marked with small circles o through ooooo, and arranged in varying order"—so you can either read the seven main sections straight through or read all the sections marked by o, then all the ones marked by oo, and so on (x). I liked this part of the book for its concrete images: a summer house, pines, cobwebs, dew, pomegranates.

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