Saturday, June 02, 2007

Henrik Nordbrandt

A few lines from Henrik Nordbrandt, The Hangman's Lament, trans. from the Danish by Thom Satterlee (Green Integer, 2003):

I asked for a shadow and you gave me a nail / long, rusty, and bent
("Near Levkas")

when the storm carries everything else away
including the memory of a freckled girlfriend
out over the bluing lake hidden behind the bare hills
("The Glass Door": page down at the link for the whole poem)

For every nightingale silenced
a gray straw burns in the grass.
("May Morning")

Nordbrandt has an exceptional feel for physical objects:


The things that were here before you died
and the things that have come after:

To the former belong, first of all,
your clothes, the jewelry and the photographs
and the name of the woman you were named after
and who also died young...
But also a couple receipts, the arrangement
of a certain corner in the living room,
a shirt you ironed for me
and which I keep carefully
under my pile of shirts,
certain pieces of music, and the mangy
dog that still stands around
smiling stupidly, as though you were here.

To the latter belong my new fountain pen,
a well-known perfume
on the skin of a woman I hardly even know
and the new light bulbs I put in the bedroom lamp
by whose light I read about you
in every book I try to read.

The former remind me that you were,
the latter that you no longer are.

It is the near indistinguishableness
I find hardest to bear.


Rain on a white table top
still reflects the drifting clouds
hours after the rain has stopped.
I dry the table with an old rag
a fragment
from one of your blouses, I think.
The ground is ready.
The leaves can let go of their grip
it is late
and gray enough for it.
A summer rushed like a landslide
down to the ground.
And there is dirt on the scrap
of flowered material you wore
one fine day in Algeciras.


C. Dale said...

My friend, Patrick Phillips, actually has some amazing translations of Nordbrandt. I have published some of them in NER. Patrick's translations are better than Satterlee's. Patrickk seems to know how to better capture the emotional qualities of Nordbrandt, as wiley and strange as they are.

Andrew Shields said...

I just did some research and discovered that Scottish poet Robin Fulton also has a selection of Nordbrandt out.