Translated from the Swedish and the German by Samuel Charters
122 pages / $17.00
122 pages / $30.00
Edith Södergran is a wonder, and We Women brings together poetry that spans her lifetime—a lifetime of sickness and solitude where she sang and communed with nature. Containing juvenilia, as well as aphorisms written late in her short life, this collection reveals Södergran's many influences—French Symbolism, German Expressionism and Russian Futurism—distilled into a personal lyricism all her own and brought into focus by Samuel Charters’ sensitive, acutely aware translations.
Photographs by translator.
Edith Södergran (1892-1923) was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. Södergran had a gift for language; she knew German, French, English, and Russian. In 1908, for reasons not exactly clear and definitive, she stopped writing in her mother tongue and began composing her poems in Swedish. Södergran was diagnosed with tuberculosis as a teenager. She published four books—Poems, The September Lyre, The Rose Altar and The Shadow of the Future—before her untimely death at the age of thirty-one.
Samuel Charters was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1929. He moved to Stockholm with his family in January 1971 to begin a new job as a music producer for Swedish record company Sonet Records. A poet himself, however, he quickly met many of Stockholm’s young poets, including Gunnar Harding, Gösta Friberg, and Göran Sonnevi. The next year he was introduced to Sweden’s most widely known poet, Tomas Tranströmer. At a meeting at the Tranströmer house, Tomas laid out three different English versions of a new poem and asked Charters which one was the best. It was at that moment that Charters began to think of translating Swedish poetry himself. In his other life as writer and music producer, Charters has published many books, articles, and recordings relating to the blues, jazz, and African-American musical culture. His most recent book is the biography Songs of Sorrow: Lucy McKim Garrison and Slave Songs of the United States, the story of the young woman who fought to preserve slave spirituals in the turbulent years of the American Civil War. Other recent books are the novel The Harry Bright Dances, a collection of his London street poems Things to do around Piccadilly, and a selection of his poetry What Paths, What Journeys, the last three titles published by Portents Productions.
"A beating drum is always behind the quietness of Edith Södergran’s poems. Their beauty coexists with a hideous knowledge of poverty, war, inequality, loss, and heartbreak. She is classical in her language and rhythm, and modern in her directness, mixing abstract and concrete worlds effortlessly: 'My soul was a light blue dress the color of the sky. / I left it on a cliff by the sea.' Now is our chance to rejoice in her astounding work. She writes, 'who hears me anymore on this earth?' WE DO."
— Bianca Stone