I don’t read all that many translations, but this one is maybe the best I’ve read. Rebecca Wadlinger and Ugly Ducking Presse have released this translation from the Norwegian poet Gro Dahl, and my main reaction is: hot damn and holy shit. It’s a series/collection of poems on motherhood and daughterhood, of family and how dark that relationship can become, and what happens with that energy when it’s trapped in a house. Multi-generational motherhood, sure, but they all sort of blend together in a way that makes the relationship between mother and daughter the true speaker of the poems. It’s the in-between that speaks from its self-formed mouth.
“A trout out of water. A catch of nine pounds. An exchange. / And the fish flops in the bucket. A daughter. A daughter. I am / deathless.”
The house reacts to the moods of this relationship, but the speaker also seems to direct the furniture and the space itself at times. It becomes confusing as to which is affecting which, and in this way, it feels a lot like a haunted house in the making. The ghosts in this book are alive and now, but already the house twists with the histories being made by its residents.
There is a narritive here, unearthed more intelligently than I could by Johannes Göransson, but it’s not entirely direct. It’s more of a stacking, of a collection of moments rather than a river’s momentum forward. But i like that so much better — it even fits in with the fabulisms of the house and the physical actions.
There is a heavy sexualization welded into this uneasy relationship, too, and the house feels it.
“Inside, the standing lamp touches the chair’s back. It all trembles. As I / turn out the light, the sofa silently mounts the coffee table. And / the chairs ride each other without a creak.”
The whole thing is dark, tense, beautiful, and moving. It’s amazing to me how so many of the poems take the same basic shape and function and yet surprises keep happening and happening. I mean, how the hell. How the house.
Check the book out here.