Four Poems
by JÓANES NIELSEN
translated by MATTHEW LANDRUM
with AGNAR ARTÚVERTIN
and TÓTA ÁRNADÓTTIR

Living Wasteland

Our desolate high mountains
Identical to me
The eyebrow and knuckles
Came into sight when the islands broke off at the base
I’m from the same vital material 
As basalt coal red ochre
In my veins drizzle and bird-blood
My skin stretched over the rocks
I love the emptiness that exhales from off the scree
Everywhere the rind of gray and greenish bark
Tarns’ tranquil eyes 
Moss campion in the gravel 
In all directions
Living wasteland
My home has always been here
The image of this jagged landscape in my cortex
I can’t tell where my boundary ends
And where the bedrock shattered by frost and sun
Begins





LIVANDI OYÐA

Okkara oydnu høgu fjøll
Meinlík mær
Eygnabrúgvin og knúgvarnir
Dagaðu undan tá oyggjarnar slitnaðu úr botni
Eri úr sama lívrunna tilfari
Sum basalt, kol, royða
Í mínum æðrum surkur og fuglablóð
Húðin spent um klettarnar
Elski tómu kensluna sum andar úr urð
Allastaðni skónin av gráum og grønligum børki
Vøtnini kúrr eygu
Túvublómur í eyri
Í allar ættir
Livandi oyða
Her havi eg altíð búð
Myndin av hesum skarpa landslagi í heilabørkini
Veit ikki hvar mítt mark gongur
Og hellurnar sprongdar av frost og só
Taka við






Morning Wood

A fly landed on my erect cock one morning
God only knows where it came from
Perhaps from some sweet cake
Possibly from the eye of a dead cat
And it buzzed so persistently 
That I came wide awake 
Buddhists claim that the souls of the dead
Can enter and lodge in a dog or rat
Maybe that indiscreet fly housed a soul
Well, I wouldn't know whose
But someone
Who loved morning wood




MORGUNKANÓN

Ein fluga setti seg á mína morgunkanón
Gud viti hvaðani hon kom
Kanska frá eini søtari kaku
Møguliga úr eyganum á einum deyðum katti
Og hon surraði somikið áhaldandi
At eg klárvaknaði
Buddistar siga at sálin hjá tí deyða
Kann taka bústað í hundi ella í rottu
Handa nærgangandi fluga kundi kanska hýst sálini
Ja, eg veit ikki hjá hvørjum
Men onkrum
Sum elskaði eina morgunkanón





Nightsong

The moonlight doesn’t speak
If it did say something
It wouldn’t be moonlight any longer
Rather something white that makes slow noise
Or am I wrong? Is moonlight the bleak powder
That dreamers fence against insomnia?
On sensitive scales
You can weigh light
This means that with a keen ear
It’s possible to hear the glimmer of your bedside lamp give a sigh
And the air doesn’t wear thin
It taste of the mouth of the woman next door and the starling 
Singing in the tree
The atoms that make up the body
Have at times been part of other bodies
The dead are among us
Smuggled in through the cracks in biology
Night tiptoes through the house
Words are skin for a consciousness that pulses in all matter
Sometimes I’ve felt at home
Like the day was a nice coat wrapped around my body





NÁTTARLJÓÐ

Mánalýsið sigur onki
Segði tað nakað
Var tað ikki mánalýsið longur
Men okkurt hvítt sum spakuliga gevur seg
Ella mistaki eg meg? Er mánalýsið sovorðið bleikt pulvur
Droymarar brúka móti andvekri?
Á fínum vektum
Ber til at viga ljósið
Tað merkir at við heilt serligum oyrum
Ber til at hoyra glæmuna í náttlampuni suffa
Luftin slítist heldur ikki
Smakkar av munninum hjá grannakonuni og staranum sum
Syngur í trænum
Atomini kroppurin er settur saman av
Hava onkuntíð verið partur av øðrum kroppi
Tey deyðu eru okkara millum
Verða smuglaði inn gjøgnum smáar rivur í lívfrøðini
Náttin fer varisliga gjøgnum húsini
Orðini eru skónin á eini vitsku sum dukar í øllum evni
Viðhvørt kenni eg meg heima
Sum var dagurin ein góður frakki um kroppin




This Fragrant Feeling of Death

Everyone dies sooner or later – 
down in that little whitewashed cell beneath the earth, 
hair and nails keep growing
maybe for months, maybe several meters.
Maybe the coffin is full of hair,
a course bouquet for the great silence.
Maybe the dead whisper some unknown language 
down in the depths of earth. Movie stars die in bath-tubs, 
on sidewalks, or down in cool wine cellars 
where they are looking for their hearts.
Some die because they have nothing better to do – 
art collectors or retired cardinals.
Maybe the wind blew some tiny caterpillars
into the coffin,
a coming hell of screaming butterflies.
Death rocks in his hammock.
Have you heard the wind in the eaves? 
This is how Death whistles in his carefree hours.
Off the coast, mermaids are waiting 
for wet bridegrooms.
They also say that poets, simple-minded murderers,
and nuns (or somesuch people) sometimes
do themselves in.
Perhaps they long for the suns
shining in dead letters.
Sometimes I escape down the open road,
let myself be washed by dark rains,
feel the wind gust through forenoons 
of water and glass.
I climb the stairs of nightmare towers 
whose foreheads knock against an unyielding heaven.
The meat of a bloodied poem,
the meat of injured feelings,
the meat of a broken bell – 
out of all this, my hope for underwater churches
glimmering on the ocean floor.
Sermons which held something back – 
in these have I found the loveliest of words,
this fragrant feeling of death.
I have taken the measure of my heart.
Out to sea, a black ferry sails.





HESA ANGANDI KENSLUNA AV DEYÐA

Øll doyggja fyrr ella seinni
niðri í lítla hvítmálaða kamarinum í jørðini halda
hárið og neglinar áfram at vaksa
kanska í mánaðir, kanska heilar metrar.
Kanska er kistan full av hári
ein ývut bukett til ta stóru tøgnina.
Kanska teska tey deyðu eitt ókent mál niðri í jørðini.
Filmstjørnur doyggja í baðikørum, á gongubreytum
ella niðri í svalligum vínkjallarum har tær leita
eftir sínum hjarta.
Summi doyggja tí tey onki annað hava at gera
listasavnarar ella pensjóneraðir kardinalar.
Kanska legði vindurin nakrar elasmáar ormverur
í kistuna
eitt komandi helviti av skríggjandi summarfuglum.
Deyðin heldur til í eini heingikoyggju
hevur tú nakrantíð hoyrt vindin í eini takrennu?
Soleiðis bríkslar deyðin í sínum sorgleysu fríløtum.
Úti á havinum bíða havfrýrnar eftir sínum
vátu brúðgómum.
Tey fortelja eisini at yrkjarar, einfoldigir drápsmenn
og nonnur ella fólk av tí slagnum viðhvørt
beina fyri sær.
Kanska leingist teimum eftir sólunum sum skína
í gloymdum brøvum.
Viðhvørt rými eg út á opnu vegirnar
lati meg tváa av svørtum regni
kenni vindin larma gjøgnum fyrrapartar av
glasi og vatni
flýggi upp í marrutorn ið duka pannuna móti
hørðum himmali
kjøtið av eini bløðandi yrking
kjøtið av meiðslaðum kenslum
kjøtið av eini brotnari klokku.
Haðanífrá stavar mítt hop til undirsjóvarkirkjurnar
sum liggja og skína niðri á botni.
Prædikur sum ongantíð sluppa framat
í teimum havi eg funnið tey vakrastu orðini
hesa angandi kensluna av deyða.
Havi tikið mát av mínum hjarta,
úti á havinum siglir ein svørt ferja.










ANES NIELSEN, a former dockworker turned political activist and writer, is a leading figure in contemporary Faroese literature. He has published seventeen books including the novel Brahmadellarnir which was nominated for the 2013 Nordic Council's Literature Prize and is forthcoming in German translation from Random House.

MATTHEW LANDRUM translations have recently appeared in RHINO, Pank, and Modern Poetry in Translation. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan where he teaches at a private high school for students with Asperger's syndrome.

AGNAR ARTÚVERTIN is a writer, poet, publisher, and translator. He lives and works in the Faroe Islands. He is editor of Varðin.

TÓTA ÁRNADÓTTIR studied Faroese language and literature at the University in Tórshavn. She works as a teacher and translator and is head of the board for Føroya Fólkaháskúli.



The Adirondack Review
SUMMER 2014