Poem of the Week: Åse-Marie Nesse – Swan


Swans, they say, sing
as they float dying on the flood
is it true of both black and white
or is the song of the white
still wilder in the north
the river is unlocked
on a windless spring night
and the first star leans its brow
on the sleeping hills
the full moon
fingering the reeds
at the water‘s edge
blushing birches rise
from their long shroud of ice
somewhere in Karelia
the earth is reborn
but the swan is singing, singing
and dies.



Svaner, sies det, synger
i siste svømmende øyeblikk,
gjelder det både hvite og svarte
eller kanskje de hvite skriker
en enda villere tone, i nord
når råken er åpen, en vårnatt
og alt er åndeløst nær,
den første stjerne senker sin
panne mot sovende åser,
fullmånen fingrer ved sivet
i vannkanten,
bjørkestammene stiger blussende
opp av sitt lange isbad, jorden
fødes på ny
et sted ved Karelen, men svanen
synger, synger
og dør.

Translated by Åse-Marie Nesse and Pauline Stainer.

From Åse-Marie Nesse (1934–2001), Lysår, J.W. Cappelens Forlag, Oslo 1985. The English translation comes from Åse-Marie Nesse, The No-Man’s Tree: Selected poems, Making Waves, Guildford 1994.

Poem of the Week. 52 poems throughout the year

Take part in a weekly journey through 52 poems by authors from Norway throughout 2019 – Norway’s year as Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

From the time when the earliest texts were recorded in runic inscriptions, poetry has had a strong position in Norway. By introducing a new poem each week throughout 2019, we aim to highlight the quality and breadth of Norwegian poetry. «Poem of the Week» presents 52 poems, inspired by the changing seasons and the passing of the year. The selection has been made by Tone Carlsen and Annette Vonberg, and consists of poems from the earliest handwritten manuscripts up until today, with a special emphasis on contemporary poetry.

You can find all poems in this series here. Read more about Norway as Guest of Honour at Frankfurt Book Fair here.