Monday, January 07, 2013

Today's Poems

These are  real poems, not my jokey bad pomes,   by Edith Södergran, a Swedish-speaking Finnish poet:


I am a stranger in this land

that lies deep under the pressing sea,

the sun looks in with curling beams

and the air floats between my hands.

They told me that I was born in captivity –

here is no face that is known to me.

Am I a stone someone threw to the bottom?

Am I a fruit that was too heavy for its branch?

Here I lurk at the foot of the murmuring tree,

how will I get up the slippery stems?

Up there the tottering treetops meet,

there I will sit and spy out

the smoke from my homeland’s chimneys. .

Edith Södergran, 1916
- translation © 2010 David McDuff

She was my favorite poet when I was a teenage goddess, full of age-appropriate angst and alienation.  I still like her work and the seeking it reveals.  The poem above lends itself to many different interpretations, including a feminist one.

This is the one I love best from her:

I saw a tree…

I saw a tree that was greater than all others
and hung full of cones out of reach;
I saw a tall church with open door
and all who came out were pale and strong
and ready to die;
I saw a woman who smiling and rouged
threw dice for her luck
and saw she had lost.
A circle was drawn around these things
that no one crosses over.

Edith Södergran, 1916
- translation © 2010 David McDuff

And one more for the road:

Two Ways

You must give up your old way, your way is dirty:
there men go with greedy glances
and the word “happiness” you hear from every lip
and further along the way lies the body of a woman
and the vultures are tearing it to pieces.

You have found your new way,
your way is pure:
there motherless children go playing with poppies,
there women in black go talking of sorrow
and further along the way stands a pale saint
with his foot on a dead dragon’s neck.

Edith Södergran, 1916
- translation © 2010 David McDuff