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TRANSLATION THURSDAY: POETRY IN TRANSLATION FROM NORDIC COUNTRIES

Posted on July 04 2019

After suggesting you London Book Fair 2019-inspired poetry titles in translation last March, we come back today with other book fairs-inspired recommendations – now more international than ever. After London Book Fair, our colleagues in the book trade are getting prepared (and excited) for the next big international event after the summer, i.e. the Frankfurt Book Fair in October.

While you probably know that Norway will be the Guest of Honour 2019 in Frankfurt, you may not have heard of the inspiring “Poem of the Week” project, which has attracted our attention. To highlight and celebrate Norwegian literature in view of Norway’s central role at the upcoming event, a new poem a week by a Norwegian author is appearing online throughout the year. Read the poems selected by translators Annette Vonberg and Tone Carlsen alongside an English translation here (or a German one here if you’re multilingual) and find your favourite ones.

Following on from the Frankfurt Book Fair’s 2019 country focus, today we are listing for you a few recent poetry titles in translation from Nordic countries.

Starting from Norway, browsing on the Norwegian Literature Abroad website, you can find a series of useful links with information about Norwegian literature in translation, as for example the section containing poems from Norway on the Poetry International Website.

If you are particularly interested in Norwegian poetry, also keep an eye out for the forthcoming To the Outermost Stars by Stein Mehren, translated by Agnes Langeland (Arc Publications, August 2019), the work of a poet and playwright about love, desire and emotions.

Then, here below come our top three recommendations of recent poetry in translation books from Nordic countries other than Norway. Don’t forget to take advantage of our Translation Thursday discount for an exclusive 30% off any of the books below by using the promotional code TRANSLATIONTHURSDAY at checkout on our website!

#1 Salamander Sun and Other Poems by Pia Tafdrup, translated by David McDuff (Bloodaxe Books, 2015) – a publication combining poems from two recent collections by one of Denmark’s leading poets, who was awarded the Nordic Literature Prize and the Swedish Academy’s Nordic Prize: The Migrant Bird’s Compass and Salamander Sun. These two previous collections by Tafdrup complete, as part of a quartet, her work on the theme of journey and passage. The Migrant Bird’s Compass is a book about the dimensions of travel, while Salamander Sun presents a poem for each year from 1952, the author’s year of birth, to 2011, discussing different stages and challenges in life, the past as well as the future.

#2 Drapa (or The Slaying). A Reykjavík Murder Mystery by Gerður Kristný, translated by Rory McTurk, with an introduction by Guðni Elísson & Alda Björk Valdimarsdóttir (Arc Publications, 2018) – a novel-poem inspired by Old Norse shield poetry and modern Nordic crime about the real story of a woman’s murder in Iceland’s capital.

In 2012, Arc Publication also published Kristný’s Bloodhoof, the re-casting into compulsively spare modern verse of an ancient Eddic poem.

#3 One Evening in October I Rowed Out On The Lake by Tua Forsström, translated by David McDuff (Bloodaxe Books, 2015, bilingual Swedish / English edition) – the work of a visionary Finland-Swedish poet. Forsström’s poetry draws its music from the Finnish landscape and seeks harmony between the troubled human heart and the threatened natural world.

A previous trilogy by this author was also collected by Bloodaxe Books in the book I studied once at a wonderful faculty, published in 2006.

Finally, our special mention is the unique Darkening/Myrking by Sissal Kampmann, translated by Marita Thomsen (Francis Boutle Publishers, 2017, bilingual Faroese / English edition) – a book of traditional wandering narratives distilled into poetry, and, most importantly, the first-ever bilingual Faroese-English publication of a work of Faroese literature. The sixth poetry collection by Kampmann, an award-winning, contemporary Faroese author, Darkening/Myriking encompasses themes such as home, place, love and longing.

If you’re interested in finding out more about poetry in translation why not become a Poetry Book Society translation member? Every quarter our expert poet selector George Szirtes chooses his favourite new poetry in translation book to deliver to our members alongside a full commentary in our Bulletin. It’s the perfect way to keep up to date with all the latest poetry in translation books, including dual language editions from a wide range of languages worldwide.

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