Two of these translated were first published for Asymptote's 'Translation Tuesday'
Peter Nielsen (Four Poems)
Blade hænger stille i skygge og lys.
Det er morgenens verden.
Man klarer sig længe
på en mundfuld vand
og alt det, man glemte i går.
Ude på vandet sover måger stadig.
Ansigter glider rundt som ure.
Leaves hanging silently in clouds and light.
It is the morning’s world.
You can live a long time
on a mouthful of water
and all that you forget yesterday.
Out in the water the seagulls are sleeping still.
Faces glide around like clocks.
Vinden løber gennem græsset.
Man må skynde sig hvis man vil se noget
Og det store som har bjærget os
Har kun verden som en forsigtig vane.
The wind runs through the grass.
You better hurry if you want to see something.
And the greatness that has conserved us
only keeps the world as a cautious habit.
Dyrene hjælper hinanden. Det ses ikke altid,
men går man ud når der ligger nyfalden sne,
vil man ofte kunne følge et spor. Man ser for eksempel
et spinkelt spor efter en mus der er kommet løbende.
Længere fremme ser man måske et andet og større spor
krydse musens rute. Tit vil man nu opleve at det store
dyr har hjulpet det lille dyr videre på dets vej i den
besværlige sne, eftersom det kun er det store spor
der forsætter. Sådan hjælper dyrene hinanden.
A LITTLE UNDERSTANDING
Animals help each other. It’s not always seen,
but if one goes out when there’s newly fallen snow,
you’ll often be able to follow a trail. You’ll see, for example,
the faint trace of a mouse that has come running.
Further on you may see another larger set of tracks
cross the mouse's path. Often, you’ll now experience that the big
animal has helped the little animal on its way in the
cumbersome snow, since it’s only the big tracks
that carry on. This is how animals help each other.
EN PERSILLEGRØN BÆNK
Jeg hilste ængsteligt på en ven som passerede med nedrullet bilrude.
Han registrerede mig flygtigt og lagde an til at standse midt i trafikken,
men jeg vinkede afværgende. Kan man udbrede et budskab på
nogen anden måde? Et trøstende brev måske? For øvrigt venter min
massør mig. Og hun venter ikke. Hun er af den slags der, slentrende
hen over kroppen, finder hvad vi andre leder efter kort før vi begynder
Episoderne i ens dag går gerne på langs, ikke på tværs. Man lever,
Eller forvilder sig på andre måder. En bænk spejder ud fra skovbrynet.
Vadefuglene er oppe i formationsflyvning, passerer tæt sammen
i et sus over sandbanken. Hvide kropsundersider. Efter en lynhurtig
kropsdrejning: sortgrå. Øjeblikket efter: hvide igen.
A PARSLEY-GREEN BENCH
I anxiously greeted a friend who passed with the car window rolled down.
He registered me fleetingly and proceeded to stop in the middle of the traffic,
but I waved him on. Can you spread a message in any other way? A comforting
letter perhaps? Besides, my masseuse is waiting. And she doesn't wait. She's kind of there,
dawdling across the body, finding what the rest of us are looking for shortly before we begin
The episodes in one's day tend to go along, not across. One lives,
or goes feral in other ways. A bench peeks out from the edge of the forest.
The waders are flying up in formation, passing close together
in a rush over the sandbank. White undersides. After a lightning fast
twist of the body: black-grey. The moment after: white again.
WHO IS PETER NIELSEN? Peter Nielsen is a Danish poet’s poet. Educated as an administrator in the local council's wages department, Nielsen began to write full-time after earning the three-year Danish Arts Foundation Grant in 1980 for his first major poetry collection ‘Kan sparsommelighed redde proletariatet?’ (‘Can Economising Save the Proletariat?’). Since then, he has been extremely productive writer who has published over twenty poetry collections, half a dozen novels, a set of children’s books and is the Danish translator for several major poets of international repute, including Paul Celan and the Swedish Nobel prize winner, Tomas Tranströmer. He was awarded the Danish Arts Foundation Lifelong Honorary Grant in 1999, and was the recipient of the Adam Oehlenschlaeger, Emil Aarestrup, Herman Bang and Johannes Ewald Fund in 2016.
Yet despite critical renown, he has also proved extremely reluctant to play along with the literary promotions machine and is consequently largely unknown to the wider Danish reading public. Instead of engaging in public readings of his work, which he believes spoils a reader’s internal understanding of a poem, he lives with his wife in a distant country suburb of Aarhus and divides his time between writing poetry, translating literature and pursing a keen amateur interest in ornithology, with all three activities arguably being a part of a singular overlapping creative practice, as if his poetry is always only out there in the rushes, waiting for their time to take flight.
The four poems collected here come from his later works. RUSH and BREAKERS, the latter originally titled ‘BRECHER’, the German word for the heavy waves, is from his 2007 collection ‘I sommervinden’ (In the Summer Winds). A LITTLE UNDERSTANDING comes from his 2003 collection ‘Livet foreslår’ (’Life Advises’, nominated for Nordic Council Literature Prize) and A PARSELY-GREEN BENCH can be found in his most recent 2020 collection ‘Inden årstiderne; Regnlys’ (Before the Seasons; Rainlight).
Matt Travers is a poet and translator whose works have featured in 3:AM magazine, Tripwire Journal, Firmament Magazine, Minor Literature(s), and Mercury Firs among others. Originally from Huddersfield, England, he now lives and dwells in Aarhus, Denmark.