Inger Christensen, Author, Susanna Nied, Translator, Anne Carson, Introduction by , trans. from the Danish by Susanna Nied. New Directions $17.95 (237p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1594-7

Christensen's sprawling, cosmically ambitious, book-length poem became a national hit in Denmark soon after its 1969 publication, and it's not hard to see why. The segments' diverse shapes—prose litany, chiming quatrains, stuttering free verse, telegram, prose diary—show mastery enough for almost any taste, while the overarching ideology—liberation for the whole human person from institutions, laws, mere forms—perfectly fit the late '60s' radical mood. Christensen begins by describing the creation of the whole world, narrows her focus to modern Danish society, then imagines recreating it, first in lyrical fragments ("A happy machine/ A wild imagination/ A fantastic din") and then through extended parables in which patients from an insane asylum learn to love one another and orchestrate social protests involving mass nudity. Drawing on Nietzsche, quoting Blake and Novalis, Christensen promises "crowns of gold for the holy/ fables for the freedom of matter," and argues that "the completely unreasonable activity is in reality reasonable, because it ends in a vision." Nied (who also translated Christensen's Alphabet ) duplicates the Danish poem's mathematical schemes while also conveying its freshness and sense of freedom. Poet and classicist Anne Carson contributes a helpful introduction. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/16/2006
Release date: 11/01/2006
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 238 pages - 978-1-85754-940-9
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