From Three Greenlandic PoetsThree Poems of Torkilk Mørch. Translated by Nive Grønkjær and David R. Slavitt.
Mørch (1894-1940), a native of Nuuk (formerly Godthåb), was a pioneer in Greenlandic poetry, combining the archaic rhythms of native culture with the sophistication of cosmopolitan modernism that opened the doors of literature to the generations that followed him. He was educated in Copenhagen, Paris, and Bucharest. His three slender volumes are Aurora Borealis (1916), The Herring Elegies (1927), and The Beckoning Foghorns (1934). Inger Christensen said that Mørch “understood the world and the universe as a continuum of correspondences.” He disappeared into a crevasse in 1940, reportedly with a nearly complete book of poems that he carried with him in a small sealskin notebook.
The chairman of the Center for Inuit Studies at the University of Baffin Island, Professor Grønkjær is the author of many books on Greenlandic history and culture, most notably, Polar Bear Rampant: The Struggle for Independence.
David R. Slavitt
David R. Slavitt is a noted poet and translator, most recently of The Sonnets and Short Poems of Petrarch (Harvard University Press). His version of the poems of Guido Cavalcanti will appear this spring from the University of Athabasca Press.
In the heart of the ice is fire.
You can touch it, feel it,
and sometimes, in the right light
see the blue flame at its heart,
unbearable heat and unbearable cold
married, as the moon and sun are married
together in a love that is much like hatred.
Summer is torment, a lavishness of light
that beats down relentless into our dazzled eyes
until we yearn for winter’s return and the darkness
we had nearly learned to live with. A silent wife
is nonetheless there. Her reliable sulky presence
is a bulwark against one’s loneliness and madness.
Unable to sleep, we are always tired. The eye
of day stares down, relentless as a god
inspecting our defects that in these endless days
of exquisitely protracted light are glaring.
Shadows dog our footsteps. In our fatigue
they begin to seem malevolent. The darkness
we hated for so long we begin to long for.