Thursday, January 12, 2006

Duke Altum's Poem of the Week #20 -- First in 2006!

After a longer hiatus than I would have liked, Duke is back here with another great poem that cries out to us from foreign shores. Regular readers of TST will recognize the name of Tarjei Vesaas, the great Norwegian novelist and poet whose novel The Ice Palace made both my & Mutt's list of notable books for 2005. Vesaas was nominated in his lifetime for the Nobel Prize, and his poems are very highly regarded in poetry circles, although they have not been translated extensively into English. The exception to this is a wonderful collection of some of his verse, translated and edited by Roger Greenwald and published by the Princeton University Press under the title Through Naked Branches: Selected Poems of Tarjei Vesaas. Not so long ago Mutt was able to track down a used copy of this collection for me (an awesome gift, thanks Mutt!), and this remarkable poem is included in the anthology.

I can't offer much by way of commentary because I don't pretend to fully understand what he's even getting at here, but my heart responded to it immediately, in a way that's hard to convey. All I can say is that, although I don't have words to express why, this poem hits me as deeply profound, wise and sad at the same time. It just feels true, on some level of the heart safely hidden away from the prying hands of logic and explanation. (Also, the call of the loon is a sound that has always struck me as mournful and mysterious...)

Suffice it to say that it just strikes in me a rich chord that rings of Beauty and Truth.


The Loons Head North

So high they're dots against the clouds,
lonely even if they're two,
the loons head north
and are gone.

Only one cool cry
reaches down from them
to where we're stuck
in our great muddle.

But out of sight
they steer straight down
into an ice-cold lake
that's aroused hidden warmth.

This we'll gladly hear --
a lonely, wild heart
that in limitless freedom
still finds its way to us.

1 comment:

Mutt Ploughman said...

Tarjei Vesaas is worth checking out for numerous reasons, as we have tried to point out before on this blog. This poem seems to ring in some of the same tones as much of the prose I have read from him in two novels, "The Ice Palace" and "The Birds". Obviously Vesaas had an observant eye for nature and an appreciation of its beauty and mysteries. Also he seemed particularly observant of birds, which play heavily into the novel of the same title. One of the characters in that book takes a close interest in all that the birds around him do and tries to interpret their actions. This seems like it was almost written in the same voice. I think Vesaas is somewhat difficult to understand, even more so because his Norwegian culture is so different from ours, and never having been to Norway, it's not easy for me to put the words and images into some kind of context. But he seemed to be skilled at pointing towards the elusive beauty in our natural surroundings and in life itself. He never seems to want to explain what these things are all about, even if he could. He just kind of illuminates them. And when you read one of his novels, and apparently his poetry too, you're forced to take notice of things that are so easy to overlook. This is why you read people like this.....