Andri Snær Magnason THE UNDERGROUND CROCODILES OF AARHUS (2017)

excerpts from an unnecessary translation of Andri Snær Magnason's process poem



In my quest to find the ultimate Aarhus City poem I stumbled across Andri Snær Magnason's casually brilliant offering for the FRESH EYES project. He sets out the scope of his work below, so read the entries if interested. By the time I had translated half a dozen entries from the Danish (which had already been translated from his native Icelandic) I discovered Magnason had translated the whole thing into English himself for the hardback anthology. Not to worry, I still, absurdly, preferred my own translation in places and have hung on to some phrases in a desperate move to affirm myself. Magnason's awestruck entries on Yahya Hassan's precocious abilities as a visionary poet take on added poignancy since Hassan's early death.


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Andri Snær Magnason

The Underground Crocodiles of Aarhus

(Naan Kalkar Danish Translator from Icelandic)

Jorinde & Joringel 2017

Task:

I set the alarm on my phone so it rings

When I hear the signal, I stop and try

to see something poetic and beautiful within precisely one minute.

(p7)

27 September 2015

21:10-21:11

Strange how I never talk with people

when I travel alone

I am always about to start a conversation

but get shy before I open my mouth

You never know where a conversation is going

I want to pretend to be a journalist

people will be on guard

if I say I’m a poet

but there goes the alarm

and I lack material

I ask where will you go?

I’m off to Aarhus

my name’s Coby

I come from Texas

I study geo-science

he shows me photos from the Faroe Islands

where he

herded sheep among the clifftops

“Did you know that there are crocodiles

in the basement under Aarhus University?”

It was good I asked

I need to see the underground crocodiles of Aarhus

(p17)





28. September 2015

9:10 – 9.11

I wake up in my bed at Godsbanen

I take a photo and send it to my wife.

My god! What has happened? she asks.

(p19)





28 September 2015

13:10—13.11

I sit at the cafe. I am reading Yahya Hassan.

I feel this strange envy of how a 17 year-old

can write something like this.

I feel this old shame of my happy childhood

the poetic angst of having nothing to say

I think about my happy 17 year-old self

an innocent son of a doctor and nurse

living in a good neighbourhood

with nice friends and a full set of wonderful grandparents

I wonder how my life looked in block capitals

MY PARENTS CAME HOME FROM

FLORIDA TODAY FROM A MEDICAL

CONFERENCE AND MOTHER

SAID HELLO AND I SAID HELLO

MOTHER DID YOU HAVE FUN

AND SHE SAID IT WAS GREAT

AND HOW WERE YOU?

AND I GOT GOOD GRADES IN THE EXAMS.

(p25)




28. September 2015

17:10—17:11

I found a good place to sit

The Lightning Factory, now closing

I feel like the task with ‘the fresh eyes’ is too difficult. The Lightning Factory is exemplary

The Museum is exemplary. The streets are well-kept and exemplary

The only thing I get fresh eyes for are my home streets

I am going home to my hospital bed

I have no plans for the evening

I will sit in my hospital bed and read Mount København

Naipaul once said he wished he had three lives

One to live, one to write and one to live

this evening I will use time on the first one

I actually need four lives, one to write, one to read

one to live, and one to do the washing up and drive

the children to ballet classes.

(p33)

29. September 2015

10:10—10:11

I am midway through Mount København

by Kasper Colling

when I stumble upon the icebergs by the harbour

the icebergs of Aarhus

I know that only 10% of an iceberg

is visible

I imagine all the floors

200 metres down under the harbour

with the drone of ships that sail by

high up above them

I wonder if they have windows

on the lowest floors

and how it must be to look up

under the container ships all the way up

as if they were sailing in the sky.

(p37)


29 September 2015

11:10—11:11

From the icebergs I can see the giraffes*

by the harbour

the Copenhagen Mountain, the icebergs in Aarhus

Legoland and windmills

the Danes understand the need to compensate for what lacks in their landscape

from the iceberg I can see the giraffes

and consider how they have evolved

they must pluck things from giant trees

I wonder how that would look

down from the lowest levels in the iceberg

and I still wait

to see the underground crocodiles

(p39)


*'I have seen the giraffes' is a Danish idiom which describes the experience of doing the essential tourist activity for the sake of being able to say that you've done it., e.g. going to Paris and visiting Notre Dame.


4 October 2015

14:00—14:01


I got a phone call from the Zoology Institute

he will show me

the underground crocodiles of Aarhus at 16:00

my uncle John was a great crocodile expert

born and raised in New Jersey

educated in Florida

working all over the world

I was always on my way over to him

with his research in the Amazon

but now I get a small opportunity

there is an underground Amazon in Aarhus



4 October 2015

15:10—15.11


I finally find the Arabian market. The Sultan’s Bazaar

Dubai Supermarket, the halal meat, the strange

smells, the tasty lamb, the tasteless bling

of LCD lights and interior design

I think about the boys and young men

I saw at the train station following

the Red Cross person

people stare at them

think of them as underground

crocodiles

I think about the ever-moving world

about the Syrian poet I met in Göteborg

he has lost 52 friends he said

I think about our history and

our wars and our movements

and I think of the Earth’s history

he ever-moving tectonic plates

the moon that stirs the oceans

the movement that brings renewal

energy, the forces of wind

and earthquakes and creation

and destruction and the clash of ideas and values

the forces of life that create something like the

book I am reading by Yahya Hassan.

(p59)


...


A FULL ENGLISH TRANSLATION BY THE AUTHOR CAN BE FOUND IN THE FRESH EYES ANTHOLOGY 2017


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