From Publishers Weekly
Christensen's sprawling, cosmically ambitious, book-length poem became a national hit in Denmark soon after its 1969 publication, and it's not hard to see why. The segments' diverse shapes—prose litany, chiming quatrains, stuttering free verse, telegram, prose diary—show mastery enough for almost any taste, while the overarching ideology—liberation for the whole human person from institutions, laws, mere forms—perfectly fit the late '60s' radical mood. Christensen begins by describing the creation of the whole world, narrows her focus to modern Danish society, then imagines recreating it, first in lyrical fragments ("A happy machine/ A wild imagination/ A fantastic din") and then through extended parables in which patients from an insane asylum learn to love one another and orchestrate social protests involving mass nudity. Drawing on Nietzsche, quoting Blake and Novalis, Christensen promises "crowns of gold for the holy/ fables for the freedom of matter," and argues that "the completely unreasonable activity is in reality reasonable, because it ends in a vision." Nied (who also translated Christensen's Alphabet
) duplicates the Danish poem's mathematical schemes while also conveying its freshness and sense of freedom. Poet and classicist Anne Carson contributes a helpful introduction. (Nov.)
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About the Author
Inger Christensen (1935– 2009), whose work is a cornerstone of modern Scandinavian poetry, was the recipient of many international awards, among them the Nordic Authors’ Prize, bestowed by the Swedish Academy and known as the “Little Nobel.” Her books include the masterpiece it; alphabet; Butterfly Valley; and Light, Grass, and Letter in April.
Susanna Nied's work has appeared in various literary journals and anthologies. Her translation of alphabet won the 1982 ASF/PEN Translation Prize for Poetry, awarded by the American-Scandinavian Foundation and Scandinavian Review.
Anne Carson was born in Canada and teaches ancient Greek for a living at New York University. Her awards and honors include the Lannan Award, the Pushcart Prize, the Griffin Trust Award for Excellence in Poetry, a Guggenheim fellowship, and the MacArthur “Genius” Award. She is the author of Nox; Glass, Irony and God; The Autobiography of Red; The Beauty of the Husband; Decreation; Economy of the Unlost; Eros the Bittersweet; Grief Lessons; If Not, Winter; Men in the Off Hours; and Plainwater.