Born in 1935 in the town of Vejle, on the eastern, Jutland coast of Denmark, Inger Christensen is considered the foremost poetic experimentalist of her generation. She has won wide acclaim in her native Denmark and other European countries for her fiction, drama, essays and children's books. She is best known, however, for her six slim volumes of poetry, which span a forty-year period. Her collections include Lys (Light, 1962), Graes (Grass, 1963), Alfabet (1981) and her highly acclaimed masterwork det (IT).
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.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
'Christensen manages to make wit, passion and questioning and astonishing design serve each other's ends as one, and she does it in a way that is utterly her own, unprecedented and a revelation.' - W.S. Merwin