The Red Place by Lars Amund Vaage translated by Anna Reckin & Hanne Bramness (Shearsman Books)

Tears in the Fence

This melancholy book-length poem, first published in Norway in 2014, begins with a motionless drama:

THERE IS A YOUNG MAN inside me

I see him standing

by a dark wall

somewhere in the forest

which sets the timbre straight off. ‘Inside’, in a way, means ‘outside’. We’re not going to be able to trust even the simplest language. Adjectives will cancel each other out: ‘the beautiful, ugly buildings/ the rich, poor rooms’.Line-breaks are deployed to leave you rudderless:

Quietly I passed into that area of darkness

which does not exist.

[…]

Mother fell and moved around in a circle

which was impossible

and expected emotional reactions are denied: ‘I am not happy to see him/ nor do I mourn him’. Soon sets of spiralling metaphors are in play: the red place is the heart, which is the piano, which is the lover and the coffin, which is the forest which…

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