True to the term “constellations,” which is what Danish poet Niels Lyngsø calls the numbered poems in his book Force Majeure (Borgens Forlag, 1999), spacing and placement of the phrases and words on the page suggest their relative gravitational pull—the amount of contextual influence the poet intends the cluster to have upon its textual neighbors. Lyngsø challenges the physical limitations of the page, compelling the poems to bear a more prescient logic than those conceived of in a more linear manner. The dimensionality achieved alludes to the metaphysics of acrostic forms: that congruencies of texts and themes in proximity and/or crux evidence some divine intention. Lyngsø is far more empirical, however: While the narrative streams often intersect, not only maintaining grammatical sense but meaning as well, the poet is most concerned with the physical, rather than spiritual, implications of the coincidence. Mud and membranes, insects and flesh stand for the inscrutable energies of the universe.
Danish is syntactically similar to Middle English, and I found myself mistakenly keeping that syntax in translation. My early drafts of translations didn’t read exactly like Chaucer, but my impulse was to keep inverted subjects and verbs in such cases as there were. The result was more Elizabethan than the original. Wherever possible, then, I tried to keep the language conversational. The difficulty arising from this is that Lyngsø has a decidedly musical ear. He toys with assonance and alliteration at times as thick and explosive as Hopkins’. I’ve had to work this characteristic in wherever the English allowed. There were few fortunate occurrences where the sound work was immediately translatable.
—on to Lyngsø’s poems.