Finally available in English translation, alphabet is a startling and gorgeous work by Denmark’s most admired poet, Inger Christensen. Susanna Nied’s remarkably beautiful translation was awarded the American-Scandinavian PEN Translation Prize by Michael Hamburger. alphabet is based structurally on Fibonacci’s mathematical sequence, in which each number is the sum of the two previous numbers. The poetry herein reflects a complex philosophical background, but also has a visionary quality, each line discovering the metaphysical in the simple stuff of everyday life. The end result is a framework of psalm-like forms that unfold like expanding universes, crystalizing both the beauty and potential for destruction that permeate the world and our times. As Michael Braun, a German critic, put it, “Inger Christensen is no apologist for blind, rapturous singing, but probably the most form-conscious and reflective writer of poetry in Europe today.”
Famous in Europe. unknown here. lnger Christensen is a formalist who makes her own rules, then turns the game around with another rule, Her alphabet, a poet’s encyclopedia of natural history and its destroyers, is sung at the speed of a May Day dance in a topsy-turvy take on Old Norse alliteration that has been exuberantly reinvented by the translator Susanna Nied.