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Inger Christensen


Inger Christensen was a Danish poet, essayist, and novelist, born in Vejle, Denmark in 1935. A number of her poetry collections have been translated by Susanna Nied into English, including Azorno (New Directions, 2009), it (New Directions, 2006), Butterfly Valley: A Requiem (New Directions, 2004), and alphabet (New Directions, 2001). Light, Grass, and Letter in April, a collected translation of her first three poetry books, was published by New Directions in 2011. A posthumous collection of essays, The Condition of Secrecy, is forthcoming from New Directions in November, 2018. Christensen died in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009.

By This Poet


I, Up they soar


Up they soar, the planet's butterflies,
pigments from the warm body of the earth,
cinnabar, ochre, phosphor yellow, gold
a swarm of basic elements aloft.

Is this flickering of wings only a shoal
of light particles, a quirk of perception?
Is it the dreamed summer hour of my childhood
shattered as by lightning lost in time?

No, this is the angel of light, who can paint
himself as dark mnemosyne Apollo,
as copper, hawkmoth, swallowtail.

I see them with my blurred understanding
as feathers in the coverlet of haze
in Brajcino Valley's noon-hot air.

alphabet [excerpt]

cicadas exist; chicory, chromium 
citrus trees; cicadas exist; 
cicadas, cedars, cypresses, the cere-

doves exist, dreamers, and dolls; 
killers exist, and doves, and doves; 
haze, dioxin, and days; days 
exist, days and death; and poems 
exist; poems, days, death