Ink

A stomachful

of dark,

 

I throw up.

 

Like a broken-down engine

choking out

 

blue-black smoke.

 
Like a dragon

spitting

only ink.





Agriculture

The page is a white

field.

 

Words

black seeds

 

I sow. 








Portuguese night

The night is silent.

  

Only

a weary dove

coos

restless

in the night air.

Or maybe

it croons                     
fado

in its sleep?






Moonlight

In memoriam

 

The sun has sunk below forest line.

 

*

 

One after another, 

miners climb

up out of the earth.

 

 *

 

They crouch at the riverbank

at twilight,

drink from cupped palms,

rinse dust

from their foreheads.

 

*

 

Their pale faces,

20,000 newly kindled moons

against a black sky.

 





Dark forest

I buried

your letters

in the back garden.

79 in all.

 

They’re beginning

to sprout

under a crust of snow.

 

Thirsty for twilight,

seeking the chill air.

 

A dark forest

will rise

from them.







Song of a lone composer

I read and raise   

a fortress

 

—stack

into stone walls

 

word

upon word

 

and wait for moss to grow.

 

Green

like a treaty

for peace.



View Original Work ↓

Blek

Magafylli

af myrkri,

ég æli því upp.

 

Eins og bilaður mótor

sem hóstar

blásvörtum reyk.

Eins og dreki

sem spúir bara

bleki.





Akuryrkja

Örkin er hvítur

akur.

Orðin

fræin svörtu

sem í hann

er sáð.





Portúgölsk nótt

Nóttin er þögul.

 

Fyrir utan

einmana dúfu

sem festir

ekki svefn,

heldur kurrar

raunalega

út í næturlóftið.

Nema

hún kyrji

fado-söngva

upp úr svefni?








Tunglsljós

In memoriam

Sólin er hnigin til viðar.

*

Hver á fætur öðrum

tínast námumennirnir

upp úr jörðinni.

*

Þeir krjúpa við árbakkann

í kvöldrökkrinu,

drekka úr skálum lófa sinna

og strjúka framan úr sér rykið.

*

Fölbleik andlit þeirra

eru 20.000 nýkviknuð tungl

á svörtum himni.








Myrkurskógur

Bréfin þín

79 talsins

gróf ég

í bakgarðinum.

 

Þau eru byrjuð

að spíra

undir vetrarsnjónum,

 

rökkurþyrst

og kulsækin.

 

Af þeim

mun Myrkurskógur

rísa.







Söngur einyrkjans

Les og yrki mér

virki

—   hleð

í múrinn

orð

fyrir orð

 

og bíð þess að mosinn grói.

 

Grænn

eins og sáttmáli

um frið.

Translator Notes

In his poetry, Magnus Sigurðsson tends to practice the “bonier music of monosyllables,” stripping his language of superfluity. At the same time, his self-imposed linguistic limitations are transcended through intricate wordplay and attention to morphology, opening up new ways to appreciate and experience the simplest of words.

Sigurðsson’s poetic universe is built out of delicate details. Translating Sigurðsson’s condensed, intricate writing style highlights the importance of a close collaboration between author and translator. His ability to create resonant, arresting poems from the leanest of material poses exciting challenges for a translator, but is also a testament to his inventiveness and aptitude for refashioning his native language.

While translating, I found myself in a monk’s cell, faced with the "echoing silence" peculiar to focused practice. As I dove deeper into the text, I formulated English “solutions” that seemed overly simplistic and devoid of harmony in sound or sense. Sigurðsson’s poetry is comprised of whispers, a contrast to my poetic tendencies toward crescendo and cacophony. Finding the poems in English has meant not compromise, but balance. In order to inhabit this new, dissonant space between languages, I have taken a less polar view of translation. As a language of poetry, Icelandic has remarkable flexibility: something akin to the love child of German vocabulary and Russian grammar. These poems exist neither in English nor Icelandic, but a third realm, the hyperborean land of Thule: the space wherein writing recalibrates thought by opening up language to new possibilities of meaning. 


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