Roadside bombs under a sectioned sky,
the earth is the same, it is only borders, limits
that are perceptibly or imperceptibly changed.
That face that looks at me from the mirror’s surface
is changing year after year beyond recognition and is
recognised none the less.
I cannot wake up and see
myself as a child, only
where I find myself at this moment.
The language we speak is not quite
the same as before,
sound and meaning have shifted,
like a restless ocean,
like the architecture of clouds
in continuous transformation.
Time, it is called, but I sense space.
That the past exists osmotically here,
that all are present, the living and the dead.
Life is a continuous state of emergency,
nothing comes back, everything
comes back different.
Behind my eyes are souls from before,
just as present as you and I
forever here and now.
by Pia Tafdrup
Translated by David McDuff
‘Time and space’ is © Pia Tafdrup, 2021 and is translated by David McDuff. It is reprinted with permission fromThe Taste of Steel and The Smell of Snow (Bloodaxe Books, 2021). Find out more about the collection on the Bloodaxe site, where you can read further sample poems. You can also watch the excellent recent launch (a joint event with Maria Stepanova and Sasha Dugdale) on the Bloodaxe YouTube channel.
Pia Tafdrup is one of Denmark’s leading poets. She has published over 20 books in Danish since her first collection appeared in 1981, and her work has been translated into many languages. She received the 1999 Nordic Council Literature Prize – Scandinavia’s most prestigious literary award – for Queen’s Gate, which was published in David McDuff’s English translation by Bloodaxe in 2001. Also in 2001, she was appointed a Knight of the Order of Dannebrog, and in 2006 she received the Nordic Prize from the Swedish Academy. Find out more about Pia’s work on her website.
The Taste of Steel and The Smell of Snow are the first two collections in Pia Tafdrup’s new series of books focussing on the human senses. While taste and smell dominate, the poems are equally about the way of the world and the losses that people sustain during the course of their lives – the disappearance of friends and family members, but also the erosion of control of one’s own existence. The themes of ecology, war and conflict are never far away, and there is a constant recognition of the circular nature of life, the interplay of the generations.
Pia Tafdrup’s previous series of themed collections was The Salamander Quartet (2002–2012). Written over ten years, its ﬁrst two parts were The Whales in Paris and Tarkovsky’s Horses, translated by David McDuff and published by Bloodaxe in 2010 asTarkovsky’s Horses and other poems. This was followed in 2015 by Salamander Sun and other poems, McDuff’s translation of The Migrant Bird’s Compass and Salamander Sun, the third and fourth parts of the quartet.
Bloodaxe Books was founded in Newcastle by Neil Astley in 1978 and has revolutionised poetry publishing in Britain over four decades. Internationally renowned for quality in literature and excellence in book design, our authors and books have won virtually every major literary award given to poetry, from the T.S. Eliot Prize and Pulitzer to the Nobel Prize. And books like the Staying Alive series have broken new ground by opening up contemporary poetry to many thousands of new readers. Find out more about Bloodaxe on the publisher’s website and follow the press on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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