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About this poet

Inger Christensen was a Danish poet, essayist, and novelist, born in Vejle, Denmark in 1935. A number of her poetry collections have been translated by Susanna Nied into English, including Azorno (New Directions, 2009), it (New Directions, 2006), Butterfly Valley: A Requiem (New Directions, 2004), and alphabet (New Directions, 2001). Light, Grass, and Letter in April, a collected translation of her first three poetry books, was published by New Directions in 2011. A posthumous collection of essays, The Condition of Secrecy, is forthcoming from New Directions in November, 2018. Christensen died in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009.

alphabet [excerpt]

3
cicadas exist; chicory, chromium 
citrus trees; cicadas exist; 
cicadas, cedars, cypresses, the cere-
bellum

4
doves exist, dreamers, and dolls; 
killers exist, and doves, and doves; 
haze, dioxin, and days; days 
exist, days and death; and poems 
exist; poems, days, death

An excerpt from alphabet by Inger Christensen, translated by Susanna Nied. Copyright © 2000 Inger Christensen; Translation Copyright © 2000 Susanna Nied; Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

An excerpt from alphabet by Inger Christensen, translated by Susanna Nied. Copyright © 2000 Inger Christensen; Translation Copyright © 2000 Susanna Nied; Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

Inger Christensen

Inger Christensen was a Danish poet, essayist, and novelist, born in Vejle, Denmark in 1935.

by this poet

poem

I

Up they soar, the planet's butterflies,
pigments from the warm body of the earth,
cinnabar, ochre, phosphor yellow, gold
a swarm of basic elements aloft.

Is this flickering of wings only a shoal
of light particles, a quirk of perception?
Is it the dreamed