October 28, 2009

Katrine Marie Guldager

Katrine Marie Guldager [Denmark]
1966

Born December 29th, 1966 in Ordrup, Denmark, she moved at the age of 3 with her family—her father working in forestry and her mother in charity—to Zambia, where started what she describes as “an old-fashioned school with British discipline.” When she returned to Denmark she lived in a housing community in Hillerød, where 27 families lived a communal life. She notes that she attended a left-wing school which she disliked.


When her parents divorced when Guldager was just 13, she began writing, and at Copenhagen’s University she studied literature. She has remained in Copenhagen since that time, and attended the famed Copenhagen School of Creative Writing.

Her debut collection of poems was Dagene skifter hænder (The Days Change Hands), which combined the ordinary with a strong sense of irony, and, along with her second collection Styrt of 1995, brought her major attention. That book also was translated into English as Crash.


In 1996 she published another volume of poetry, Blank, and more recently she published Ankomst Husumgade (Arrival at Husumgade, 2001), a comical long poem in prose. Guldager has also written dramas, collections of short stories (København, 2004 and Kilimanjaro, 2005), and a novel, Det grønne øje (The Green Eye, 1998). She won The Critics’ Prize in 2004.


Critic Lars Bukdahl wrote in the Kristelight Dagblad of Crash: “Whereas her first book was convincing but also somewhat hesitant, here in Crash there is not the slightest slip. This book of 37 prose poems is almost frighteningly assured and original, with not a single weak text to be found—a little ‘already-a-classic.’”


BOOKS OF POETRY

Dagene skifter hænder (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1994); Styrt (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1995); Blank (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1996); Ankomst Husumgade (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 2001).

ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS

Crash, trans. by Anne Mette Lundtofte (Brownsville, Vermont: Goats + Compasses, 1999).


Crash

It can happen, of course, that you get a flat, that you have to borrow a bike, that you end up on one that’s too high: You can barely reach the pedals and there are cars and yield right of way and crosswalks: There are asphalt and unfamiliar reflexes in your hands, accidents looming in the air like seconds someone has painted over with complete, total hush: There are the scraping and the asphalt, asphalt the bike slams against, asphalt you go plowing down through, small stones you hide under your skin, and glass, and there’s no way around it or down through it: There is only asphalt on top of asphalt, there’s a city on top of the asphalt, and nothing underneath but earth: There are earth and asphalt and a city: There’s a city that’s on top of the earth: there is a city on top of a city, there is asphalt on top of asphalt, earth on top of earth, and there’s no way down through it or around it, that’s how it’s always been: Like when you’re riding a bike—much too high up—and can’t reach the pedals.

—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)



Yes

You have to say YES every time: Every other time and maybe aren’t enough, and I just have to take care of 47 things. If you want to pet the cat there’s no use chasing it under the bed, you can see that much, if you want to open your letters and read them there’s no use slicing them up, ripping and kicking and hitting: You can see that much too and the logic between 47 and 17 is clear, what’s clear is what you see through and cut yourself on, and it hurts, your skin hurts far too much, scratches, wounds, and there’s nothing else to do: You just have to keep going, without watching every step and until you can hear it, totally clear: YES.

—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)



Position

It’s something you get roped in by, a surplus of foreign exchange and places you’re allowed to be: Movie premiers stream over your face like a fall wind that lifts your hair. It’s strings of stones that go skipping across each other, doors within other doors that open and close like quick chances in a labyrinth you suddenly escape from: It’s the glances of passersby and a happiness that winds out into the blue like the coastline, clusters of plants spread around the balcony, fragrances and a new trend in bathing suits. It’s what you turn on its head: Thickets you’ve gone and crept into among the thorns, one Sunday on a deserted mountain train, when you enter a dark house: It’s him standing in the corner casting about with his eyes.


—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)



Tracks

I’m so totally miserably sick and tired of the man who for the second day in a row is standing outside my front door and claiming that he lives here, and that I love him. He won’t go away, and he’s a pain in my mornings, the nighttime, my dreams. I dream I’m giving a lecture at Hillerød Station. I dream I can be in two places at once, on one track that crosses and one that topples and becomes metal rain over a hope, a handbag. I dream that I’m dreaming, and that inside that dream I’m awake: As awake as a ripple, a hint, a door slightly ajar.


—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)



Window

I recognize only half of what was going to be my life: The weeks cut into my skin like a net I can see through only at times. I get up and stagger out into the streets ecstatic, stumble over a gull’s cry and call it my own. I fling out my arms and let 7 equal 5: My memory is like window frames in the spring, which keep flaking; what I remember, like the rotting wood that’s slowly crumbling.

—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)


Public Pool

I take a child or something else by the hand and go down the street, go down to the public pool and rinse off, spray myself, shower between porous concrete and drunken tiles: I stand in the stall and grow as heavy as all the storeys of the building while the water runs from stall to stall and back again: The drain is about to overflow with shampoo and sweat, it rises and ebbs, rises and ebbs, belches like whole pub I walk past: I walk and walk through the streets, right between baby carriages and winos and hold beer crunching in the corners of their mouths, in their bones, drunks spit out between traffic circles and one-way streets: I walk and walk through the streets, with the faint scent of perfume trailing me.


—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)




Tea Party

As at a tea party, the rattling and could you please pass: We keep talking, long after the last cup is drained we keep talking, keep talking and talking. The radio chatters with announcers who keep talking, radio news in Greenlandic and re-runs from last summer: we keep talking, no matter what we keep talking, as in the courtyard where people are talking in the apartments: Each window hides someone who keeps talking, talking and talking, even if the sun goes down, calmly and quietly, while the talking goes on.

—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)



City

They can’t help it, the bookshelves, but it’s them there’s something wrong with, TV, stairs, and should we go left or right are the last straw: Maybe what lies outside resembles a city, but it isn’t, city isn’t just city, city isn’t just a way of piling a whole lot of building together, city isn’t just roads, subways and buses, city isn’t just church towers and happy hours, restaurants and kiss my ass: City isn’t just city, and especially not here, buildings aren’t just buildings, city isn’t just city, it can’t be done, there are far too many things that can’t be done, be solved, there are piles of things, piles of city, used city, far too much used city, buildings, bookshelves and TV sets, for example in the courtyard, where it’s completely still.

—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)




Excerpt

You have to answer back, fast and with tempered steel, that you don’t have to go along with anything, from either God or everyman: You have to answer back, if need be in the middle of traffic, in the midst of colliding details, a collision of consideration, surfaces and I want to go home, all the way home, be safe at home as the saying goes, even if it’s impossible: You just have to answer back, and of course that’s why you stand there, in the middle of the traffic, paralyzed at the red light that just gets redder and redder, redder and redder, until it begins to overflow, down onto the asphalt, the asphalt that resembles itself.

—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)



Blackbird

So now everything’s fine, just fine, in its place, and the potted plants have been dusted: So everything’s completely OKAY, scoured and scrubbed, and there’s nothing to trip over on the way to the phone or out to the bathroom: Except maybe that blackbird, quite dead and with glass eyes, except maybe a sprouting apple tree under the mail slot, totally riotous: Except maybe the ladder someone’s propped in the entranceway, or that it’s so shiny.

Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)




Gravestone

There’s always something you have to take care of, a distraction you can get drawn into when the kitchen window swings and keeps slamming, and the flowers that you can only sense are having their petals torn off one by one: My eyes give birth to glass eyes that rattle in my sink when I drop them, drop them like the light that rotates on its titled axis in a labyrinth of shoes and footsteps: There’s always something you have to take care of, a grid that rumbles past under the asphalt, a toppled gravestone you can trip over: If for example you cross the cemetery without knowing whether you’re looking for shade or sun.

—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)



Red

Here’s what it’s like to be born: You’re never off, you don’t get a minute to yourself, not an instant when you can look the other way or a second when you can turn your back: Here’s what it’s like to be born, you can’t do anything about it, the whole time you’ve simply been born, you can’t get off, get away, be unborn again: There’s nothing to be done, you’re born, born in fluttering redness, in a wail that stays in your body as an echo, and sleep, sleep makes no difference, it can only be exchanged for something else that fits right into where the sleep was, there’s nothing to be done, it’s here the whole time, the whole think, yourself.

—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)







Traffic Accident

It’s impossible to say if there is anything outside the window, but a chronic curiosity forces you to sort of sniff—wind, people. It’s impossible to say how it happens, but you lean back in again, into the shade, and right away all your senses have clicked DELETE: suddenly you can’t remember why you leaned either out or back in, or what you really wanted, more than anything you feel like 17 kitchen appliances that are neither bought nor paid for, like a tired plastic bag from the supermarket that you’ve put aside and forgotten: It’s impossible to say how to do it, how to find your way back between everything you can’t revive: yourself, the kitchen table and a single traffic accident you’ve hidden under your breast.

—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)




Beach

Suddenly you’re a year older, and a number is added to others, but the day doesn’t change colors on that account: sooner or later you’ll have to admit that the congratulations too become less and less like themselves, that the summer is endless and a complete whole, wrapped up and sold: Nonetheless the sun is red, dazzlingly red, as above a beach you wish you could be washing up on, and it can certainly be night if someone remembers to hang the stars up with thread and stick the moon on with tape: For perhaps you could wake up, later, as three minutes to midnight, or as a flock of birds taking off.

—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)




Intersection

There is ground, there’s an army of ants and one that is eating its way into the darkness: Slow blind breathing. There is ground, there’s an army of ants and one that’s rummaging around behind the paneling: There are blades of grass that are creaking in the courtyard under a tree, a frog that slides in the mud on a boulevard and pulls in one hind leg: There is ground, there’s an army of ants, and one that’s making noise under a pedestrian crossing: There are wires spilling out of a seam in the asphalt, a word that has burst out in the middle of a sentence: Poems that force their way out through your skin like tropical fish.


—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)


______


PERMISSIONS

“Crash,” “Yes,” “Posisition,” “Tracks,” “Window,” “Public Pool,” “Tea Party,” “City,” “Excerpt,” “Blackbird,” “Gravestone,” “Red,” “Traffic Accident,” “Beach,” and “Intersection”
Translated from Styrt (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1995). English language translation copyright ©2006 by Roger Greenwald. Reprinted by permission of Gyldendal.

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