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

Light, Grass, and Letter in April by Inger Christensen
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Feb 27, 12

bookshelves: poetry, translation
Read in February, 2012

inger christensen, the late danish poet, was most prolific throughout the 1960s, 70s, & 80s, crafting a number of singular works that brought her international acclaim. perhaps best known for alfabet, her 1981 collection of poems structured upon the fibonacci sequence, christensen's writing is innovative yet measured. light, grass, and letter in april is composed of three distinct works, originally published in 1962, 1963, and 1979, respectively (though never before translated into english). light and grass, christensen's first two works, share more in common, both stylistically and thematically, than letter in april, but all three are punctuated by her strong, lyrical imagery.

christensen's poems, especially those in light and grass, are deeply evocative, as the dampness and solitude of her subjects (beach, ocean, forest) are nearly palpable. though marked by a melancholy apropos of the waning winter days and nights of which she writes, these poems are often hopeful, as if awaiting the promise of another spring with its requisite thawing and return to sunlight. possessed by a sense of place, yet countered by uncertainty and longing, christensen's writing often veers into the ethereal. as echoes of a quiet, seemingly elusive joy resound through these thoughtful and personal poems, the precision of christensen's work is obscured by an abounding musicality. letter in april is a series of poems divided into seven sections, with each of those sections divided into five further subsections, all intended to be read in either the order they appear or in a linked sequence based on the subsection's markings. with the self-imposed constraints that often shaped her writing, inger christensen's books would not be out of place amidst some oulipo works. letter in april features the original accompanying drawings of her friend johanne foss, artist and fellow dane.

"transience" (from light)

the stone on the beach evaporates.
the lake is gone in the sun.
animals' desert skeletons
concealed in the eternal sand.
things wander,
die in each other,
sail like thoughts
in the soul of space.
caravans of living sand.

is this a threat?
where is my heart?
caught in the stone.
concealed in a lake.
beating deep
inside a humped camel
lying and groaning
and dying in sand.


*with an introduction and translation from the danish by susanna nied
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