Said and read – April 2018


My April was filled with reading, but a lot of it was not anticipated. In recent months, I started to take action on a lifelong dream, and in setting that into motion, I also realized that there were loose ends from the past I wanted to tie up. In this case, I had an almost-finished MA degree that I started in 2012 but hadn’t completed the final thesis project. I wondered if maybe I could quickly wrap this up, so I wrote to the program administrator to see if there were any way to rejoin the course. In less than 14 hours, I was re-enrolled in the program and on my way to finishing the degree. So… yes, I have had a lot of reading to do, but almost all of it has been connected to my newly (re)claimed identity as a student. Now I have become one of those students I always hated when I was young: the dreaded “adult learner”. Anyway, this course is all research methodology in the lead-up to researching and writing the thesis. Therefore, not much material I would list here.



However… I did still find the time to keep up some of my reading for pleasure activities, albeit not as aggressively. Still, at the close of April, I had completed 150 books in total for 2018 (so far) with modest progress made toward my ultimate goal of reading 26 in non-English languages. (In April I did manage some Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic and French.)

Reading recommendations for April:

*North in the World: Selected PoemsRolf Jacobsen

Norwegian, dual language. I had to order the actual book! I loved receiving it. Sadly the poem I bought it for (to get the Norwegian original) wasn’t even in this volume but that is a good excuse to get another.

*Crossing to SafetyWallace Stegner

I would say that this is highly recommended and great, perhaps if it were the first Stegner I had ever read. And in truth, I do recommend this. Stegner’s natural, realistic way of writing is rare and engrossing. But his Angle of Repose was one of my favorites of all I read in 2017, so it’s hard for me to say that this book is its equal even though it’s still beautiful.

“Leave a mark on the world. Instead, the world has left marks on us. We got older. Life chastened us so that now we lie waiting to die, or walk on canes, or sit on porches where once the young juices flowed strongly, and feel old and inept and confused. In certain moods I might bleat that we were all trapped, though of course we are no more trapped than most people. And all of us, I suppose, could at least be grateful that our lives have not turned out harmful or destructive. We might even look enviable to the less lucky.”

*Several books by Danish poet, Henrik Nordbrandt: 100 digte, Omgivelser, and Selected Poems (in English)

It required a long, maze-like effort to find original (Danish) language e-books that I could both buy (many sites only allowed customers in Denmark) and buy affordably. Then I finally succeeded and loved these.

*PachinkoMin Jin Lee

I didn’t have high expectations for this book – and in fact didn’t really know what it was about. I would not say it’s a great work of literature, but it was undeniably readable and hard to put down. Following several generations of Koreans in Japan during the 20th century, it’s quite fascinating.

*Poésie africaine – Six poètes d’Afrique francophone: anthologieAlain Mabanckou (ed.)

A number of poets from Africa – some really great stuff. But then, I’m partial, you know, to poetry.

Good – really good – but not great

*Year of WondersGeraldine Brooks

“For the hour in which I am able to lose myself in someone else’s thoughts is the greatest relief I can find from the burden of my own memories.”

*Poèmes et rêvasseriesFiston Mwanza Mujila

French-language poetry from a Congolese writer I have appreciated for his prose work in the past.

*The DoorMagda Szabó

An unexpected and complex Hungarian book about an unusual and strangely demanding servant/housekeeper who comes to dominate the life of the story’s narrator.

“In my student days, I detested Schopenhauer. Only later did I come to acknowledge the force of his idea that every relationship involving personal feeling laid one open to attack, and the more people I allowed to become close to me, the greater the number of ways in which I was vulnerable.”

Entertaining/informative/thoughtful or some combination thereof

*I Am a Strange LoopDouglas R. Hofstadter

“So, to the extent that we can be chameleons and can import the “spices” of other people’s life histories (the spices that imbue their self-loops with unique individuality), we are capable of seeing the world through their eyes. Their psychic point of view is transportable and modular — not trapped inside just one perishable piece of hardware. If this is true, then Carol survives because her point of view survives — or rather, she survives to the extent that her point of view survives — in my brain and those of others. This is why it is so good to keep records, to write down memories, to have photos and videotapes, and to do so with maximal clarity — because thanks to having such records, you can “possess”, or “be possessed by”, other people’s brains. That’s why Frédéric Chopin, the actual person, survives so much in our world, even today.”

*Writing Beyond Race: Living Theory and Practicebell hooks

A reading for the study program but certainly important above and beyond academic reach.


*The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling and the Making of the Cultural MindAntonio R. Damasio

Just as I rejoin the student world, much of what I am looking at/reading has a component of this: construct of culture. I had just finished reading this when I re-enrolled and thus would like to take a look at this comparatively against some of the uni readings.

“The idea, in essence, is that cultural activity began and remains deeply embedded in feeling. The favorable and unfavorable interplay of feeling and reason must be acknowledged if we are to understand the conflicts and contradictions of the human condition.”

Biggest disappointment (or hated/disliked)

*American TalibanPearl Abraham

I didn’t hate this book but I didn’t like it either. It isn’t anything I looked forward to or anything about which I had any expectations, and am not sure why I read it. I just found it sort of boring.

Images by SD 2018



It Was Here
Rolf Jacobsen
It was here. Right here
beside the brook and the old rosebush.
A late spring this year, the roses are still pale,
almost like your cheek
the first morning beyond death.
But it’s coming,
only the light, only the fragrance, only the pleasure
won’t be coming.

But it was here,
it was an evening with a moon,
the brook trickling,
like now. Take my hand,
put your arm there.
And we’ll set out
together in the summer night,
silently, toward
what isn’t.


Det var her
Det var her. Akkurat her
ved bakken og det gamle nypekjerret.
Sen vår iår, rosene er bleke ennå,
nesten som kinnet ditt
den første morgenen bak døden.
Men det kommer,
bare lyset, bare duften, bare gleden
kommer ikke.

Men det var her
og det var kveld og måne,
sånn som nå. Ta hånden min,
legg armen der.
Så går vi da
sammen i sommernatten, tause
mot det som
ikke er.



Bella Dizhur
Awakened by insomnia,
I do not leave my bed.
I wait:
kindhearted sleep will envelop
This unwanted idleness.
I lie and listen to the street.
There the night is empty and still.
Someone else’s misfortune
Engulfs me suddenly.
Warming itself
in the humming entry way
Beside the radiators;
It no longer hopes
To change its own life.
But I am still full of bravado;
I have no trust in grief;
I do not raise a cry;
I squeeze my heart in my fist.


Разбуженная бессонницей,
Не расстаюсь с постелью.
сон добросердный склонится
Над вынужденным бездельем.
Лежу и улицу слушаю.
В ней ночью пусто и тихо…
Но вот на меня обрушилось
Чье-то чужое лихо.
В гудящем подъезде греется
У батарей отопительных…
Оно уже не надеется
Влиять на свою действительность.
А я еще хорохорюсь.
Не доверяю горю.
Крика не подымаю.
Сердце в кулак сжимаю.



Sorry, My Lord
Radmila Lazić
I’m penniless, my Lord.
Empty heart, empty pussy.
The pockets of my soul are turned inside out.
In my head something tinkles
As in a Red Cross box.
Slip something in my wallet, Lord.

I’m empty and broke.
My heart whistles like a teakettle.
Elsewhere, landscapes burst with beauty.
Here darkness presses on the eyelids.

I squandered everything, blew it away
As if there was no tomorrow.
Now it’s Your turn to give me something.
Feed me, heal me
Before You write it down in Your book.
Give me a butt, a lousy nickel.
Give this sinner a cock.

Give me this day.

I neither sow nor reap,
Nor do I weave.
I obeyed Thee, Lord,
Now You take care of me.
I laze in bed past noon,
Loaf around all day with nothing to do.
Nights I spend in bars or over my manuscripts,
Keep vigil, bleed.
In the morning I step on the cold floor of my heart.
Your son, Your darling,
I sniff between his legs
The way a bitch sniffs her litter.
You said: Do unto others
As you would have done unto you.
But that man gave me a kick,
Shook me like sand out of a sandal.
I suspect other heels dance now
On his heart’s stage
While mine lies hollow like a gutter
Beaten by lethal drops of rain.

Nothing comes easy to me anymore-
Narrow gate, narrow path.
Stop staring at me, Lord.
Gravity won’t hold me up.
I ‘m tipsy, I’ve lost my footing.
The street grows even more crooked.
My house is even more distant.
Give me Your hand, extend Your finger
Like a torch, not a whip.
Life wails like a mouth organ.
I’ve thoroughly lost my way.
I can’t tell from the birds,
Plants, trees, cardinal points,
Sweetwater fish from the deep-sea kind,
The source from the mouth of a river,
The dreams over which I wade
From the street where I swing my hips.

Many times I fell in love forever.
My heart was a hot stove.
Now the jug is broken.
Let there be sex unstained by love
Is my slogan now.

Every other desire I shook off
Like raindrops from a coat.
Have mercy, Lord.
I sing of a drowned soul
Which I can’t drag to the shore.
My hands hang like wild game.
Help me! Rescue me!
Give me-mouth-to-mouth!

I love strong drink, violent men,
And other such foolish things.
I confess to You, Lord,
Not a Single sin eluded me.
Like Your own body
My heart is a pincushion.

Sorry, Lord.
I’m neither Martha nor Magdalena.
I’m what You spat out, Your discharge.
Now weigh it all on Your scales.
Don’t tip them, don’t cheat on me.
Go and weigh them.
Blind my heart, take away my sight
To suffer and pay.
Lord, have mercy on me.


Sorry, Gospode
-Radmila Lazić
Švorc sam, Gospode.
Prazno srce, prazna pica,
Izvrnuti džepovi moje duše.
U glavi tek ponešto zveči
Kao u konzervi prilog za Crveni krst.
Tutni nešto, Bogo, u moj buđelar.

Prazna sam i bez prebijene
Srce mi pišti ko čajnik.
Negde vidici pucaju od lepote,
Ovde sumrak pritisko kapke.

Sve sam protraćila, proćerdala.
Sve spiskala.
Sad Ti udeli, nahrani, isceli.
Pre nego što ubeležiš,
Daj pljugu, daj kintu,
Daj kitu, ovoj grešnici.

Daj mi danas.

Niti sijem, niti žanjem,
Niti predem,
Tebe poslušah, Bogo,
Sad Ti pobrini se za me.
Izležavam se do podne.
Danju unaokolo cunjam, gluvarim,
Noću nad rukopisima il po barovima
Dreždim, krvarim.
Ujutru stajem na hladan pod srca
Tvog sina, tvog čeda.
Njušim njegovo međunožje
Kao keruša svoje male.
Jer, Ti kaza:
Sve što hoćete da vama čine ljudi,
Činite i vi tako njima.
Al šutnu me taj čova,
Istrese me ko pesak iz sandale.

Više mi ništa ne ide od ruke —
Uska vrata, tesan put.
Ne bulji u mene, Bogo,
Ne drži me zemljina teža,
Nacvrcana sam, gubim korak,
Ulica mi je sve krivlja,
Kuća sve dalja,
Pruži ruku, pruži prst,
Ko luču, ne ko prut.

Život cvili kao usna harmonika,
Daleko sam zabasala.
Ne razlikujem više vrste ptica,
Biljaka, drveća, strane sveta,
Rečne od morskih riba,
Izvor od ušća.
Snove po kojima gacam
Od ulice kojom njišem kukovima.

Više puta voleh zauvek,
Moje srce beše vrela ringla,
Sad je vrč razbijen.
Seks neuprljan ljubavlju,
Moja je deviza.
Sve druge želje stresoh
Ko kišne kapi sa kaputa.
Gospodi pomiluj!
Pevam o duši utopljenoj,
Koju ne mogu na obalu izvući.
Kao obešena divljač vise moje ruke.
Pomozi! Izbavi!
Daj mi — usta na usta!

Voleh gorka pića, žestoke momke,
I koješta još,
Priznajem Ti, Bogo,
Ne mimoiđe me nijedan greh.
Kao Tvoje telo,
Moje srce je jastučić za igle.

Sorry, Gospode,
Nisam ja ni Marta ni Marija Magdalena.
Tvoj sam ispljuvak, tvoja slina.
Sad, sve stavi na kantar.
Ne priteži i ne zakidaj.
Obnevidi mi srce, liši me vida.
Patiti i platiti.
Gospodi pomiluj!

I slept with the wind


Crust on Fresh Snow
Rolf Jacobsen
My soul is hard as stone. I slept with the wind.
He’s an unfaithful lover. Now he’s with someone else.
He hummed words, prattled in my ear
and stroked my hair. I gave him all my whiteness.
I let him chisel dreams in my soul—of clouds,
fierce seas, and soft flowery hills.
Now I see, cold, it was them he loved.
Where is he now? Tonight my heart froze.

Photo by Hide Obara on Unsplash



O Taste and See
Denise Levertov
The world is
not with us enough
O taste and see

the subway Bible poster said,
meaning The Lord, meaning
if anything all that lives
to the imagination’s tongue,

grief, mercy, language,
tangerine, weather, to
breathe them, bite,
savor, chew, swallow, transform

into our flesh our
deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince,
living in the orchard and being

hungry, and plucking
the fruit.

calming nostalgia


Yehuda Amichai
If now, in the middle of my life, I think
of death, I do so out of confidence
that in the middle of death I will suddenly think
of life, with the same calming nostalgia
and with the distant gaze of people
who know their prophecies come true.

Photo by T L on Unsplash