TRANSLATION – Poetry by Benny Andersen and Marianne Koluda Hansen

Translation from the Danish by Michael Goldman

MEETING REPORT

 

The first one came first
then the second one came
the third one let them wait for him a bit
but he got there just before the last one
who came late.

At first the first one said nothing
because he was alone.
When the second one arrived the two chatted together
about old days and a few new ones.
They didn’t know one another all that well
but enough
that they didn’t want to deepen their acquaintance.

It wasn’t until the third one showed up
that the conversation really got going.
The first one and the third one
who knew each other well
both talked at once for a long time.
The second one and the last one
who both had been looking forward to this meeting
also both talked at once
but not with the other two.

First the first one and the third one stopped their conversation.
They really didn’t have anything else to talk about
but each made a few small last slurps
grunts and smiles
because it had been a good conversation
as long as it lasted.
At that point the second and the last one stopped talking
because they had touched on a subject
that could be embarrassing for the one
and thereby also for the other one
so they tactfully kept quiet
and just nodded knowingly to one another
without trying to get in the last nod.

 

 

The second one made a little remark to the third one
who answered politely:
Yes, you may be right.
That’s as far as they got
but it was left hanging
that he may just as well have been wrong
it would have to wait until the next meeting.

Finally the last one said
that unfortunately he had to go
and the others conveniently agreed
that it was time to end the meeting
and schedule a new one.
They all agreed
that there were things they had glossed over
and that obviously would have to be taken up next time.

First the last one left
then the third one
and shortly after, the second one.

The first one stayed a little longer
because it was his turn to pay the bill
for what they had drunk and eaten during the meeting.
They took turns.
Finally the first one left.

 

 

MØDERFERAT

 

 

Først kom den første
så kom den anden
den tredje lod vente lidt på sig
men nåede frem lige før den sidste
der kom for sent.

Først sagde den første ingenting
fordi han var alene.
Da den anden kom til snakkede de to sammen
om gamle dage og enkelte nye.
De kendte ikke hinanden så grundigt
men nok til
at de nødig ville uddybe bekendtskabet.

Først da den tredje og den sidste dukkede op
kom der rigtig gang i snakken.
Den første og den tredje
som kendte hinanden godt
og gerne ville uddybe bekendtskabet
snakkede længe i munden på hinanden.
Den anden og den sidste
som begge havde set hen til dette møde
snakkede også først i munden på hinanden
men ikke i munden på de andre.

Først holdt den første og den tredje op med deres samtale.
De havde ikke rigtig mere at snakke om
men kom alligevel med små efterskvulp
forsinkede grynt og smil
for det havde været en god samtale
så længe den varede.
Derpå holdt den anden og den sidste op
for de var kommet ind på et emne
som let kunne blive pinligt for den ene
og dermed også for den anden
så de tav taktfuldt
og nikkede bare forstående til hinanden
uden forsåg på at få det sidste nik.

 

Den anden kom med en kort bemærkning til den tredje
der høfligt svarede:
Det er muligt De har ret.
Mere kom der ikke ud af det
men det blev liggende i luften
at han lige så vel kunne have uret
det måtte vare vente til næste møde.

Endelig sagde den sidste
at han desværre måtte gå
og de andre blev belejligt enige om
at det var på tide at hæve mødet
og aftale et nyt.
De var alle enige om
at der var ting de var gået lovlig let henover
og som afgjort måtte tages op næste gang.

Først gik den sidste
derpå den tredje
og kort efter den anden.

Den første blev lidt endnu
for det var hans tur til at betale regningen
på det de havde drukket og spist under mødet.
Det gik på omgang.
Tilsidt gik den første.

 

By Benny Andersen ©1969 “Mødereferat”

Originally published by Borgen

 

 

A GIRLFRIEND

 

my girlfriend is a full-time marxist
incredibly aware of her gender
what I mean is
about socially-derived female myths
seen in relation to
the continual accumulation of capital

she sees right through it all
and I get neuroses
and complexes and headaches
from being in a room with her
for too long at a time
she can’t understand
that I don’t understand
why suddenly everything
has to be changed
in a sudden presto-change-o
without giving anyone a chance
to get used to the idea

she says
she loves all women
and at first I thought
that sounded good
we women really need each other
but she doesn’t
need me
for anything except to change
even though it’s possible
that I could give her
something or other
but she doesn’t ask for that
and I even have my roots in the Working-class
which she also loves passionately

when she sees the magazines
I have lying around
she wrinkles her nose indignantly
and promises to bring me
some consciousness-raising
literature
and one day suddenly she ripped
a magazine to shreds
you could just as well
wipe your ass with that
that’s all it’s good for
and I was upset
there was something
I wanted to cut out
a calorie table
and a very interesting article
about how to avoid
getting cellulite on your thighs
when she heard that she got mad
I shouldn’t let myself
be reduced to a sex-object
because then the capitalists
can manipulate me with impunity

but I said that I just
wanted to lose a few pounds
so I could fit into
my old clothes
I couldn’t see what benefit
the capitalists
would gain from that
quite the opposite
so that shut her up
but that’s also the first time
otherwise I can never
understand what she’s talking about
sometimes I don’t even believe
that she really understands it herself
because when I ask
what she means
by something she said
she just says a whole bunch of things
I don’t understand either
and then I don’t have the guts to say
that I still don’t get it

 

but now I don’t let her
in anymore
when she comes by
when I have a feeling
that she’s on the steps
quickly I close the curtains
shut the lights and hide
in my monopoly capitalist bathtub
with a roast beef sandwich
and a pepsi
a stack of soap opera magazines
and various perfumed oils and creams
that keep my skin young and supple
so I can really please
my disgusting chauvinistic husband

she can just
go someplace else
and practice her all-encompassing
love

 

 

EN VENINDE

 

min veninde er fuldtidsmarxist
og enormt bevidst om sit køn
det vil sige
om samfundsskabte kvindemyter
set i relation til
kapitalens fortsatte akkumulation

hun gennemskuer det hele
og jeg får neuroser
og komplekser og hovedpine
af at være i stue med hende
alt for længe ad gangen
hun kan ikke forstå
at jeg ikke kan forstå
hvorfor det hele pludselig
skal laves om
sådan lige hu hej
uden at man får lov til
at vænne sig lidt til tanken

hun siger
hun elsker alle kvinder
og i begyndelsen syntes jeg
det lød godt
vi kvinder har jo brug for hinanden
men hun har ikke
brug for mig
til andet end at lave om på
selvom det kunne da være
at jeg kunne give hende
et og andet
men det spørger hun ikke efter
og jeg har endda mine rødder
i Arbejderklassen
som hun osse elsker lidenskabeligt

når hun ser de blade
jeg har liggende
rynker hun forarget på næsen
og lover at tage noget
bevidstgørende litteratur
med til mig
og en dag rev hun pludselig
et blad i stykker
det kunne jeg lige så godt
tørre mig i røven med
bedre var det ikke værd
og jeg blev ked af det
der var noget
jeg gerne ville have klippet ud
en kalorietabel
og en meget interessant artikel
om hvordan man undgår
at få appelsinhud på lårene
da hun hørte det blev hun gal
jeg skulle ikke lade mig
reducere til sexobjekt
for så kunne kapitalisterne
uhæmmet manipulere med mig

men jeg sagde at jeg bare
ville af med et par kilo
så jeg kunne være i
mit gamle tøj
og hvad glæde kunne kapitalisterne
have af det
det kunne jeg ikke se
tværtimod
så der fik jeg
lukket munden på hende
men det er osse første gang
ellers kan jeg aldrig
forstå hvad det er hun siger
sommetider tror jeg ikke engang
hun rigtigt selv forstår det
for når jeg spørger
hvad hun mener
med noget hun har sagt
siger hun bare en hel masse
jeg heller ikke forstår
og så tør jeg ikke sige
jeg stadig ikke har fattet en pind

men nu er jeg helt holdt op
med at lukke hende ind
når hun kommer

når jeg har på fornemmelsen
at hun er på trapperne
trækker jeg hurtigt gardinerne for
slukker lyset og gemmer mig
i mit monopolkapitalistiske badekar
med to tartarmadder
en pepsicola
en stabel romanblade
og diverse duftende oljer og cremer
som holder min hud ung og smidig
så jeg rigtigt kan behage
min ækle chauvenistiske mand

og så kan hun
gå et andet sted hen
og praktisere sin altfavnende
kærlighed

 

By Marianne Koluda Hansen ©1979 “En veninde”

Originally Published by Klitrose

 

Benny Andersen (born November 7, 1929) is the foremost living poet and lyricist in Denmark. First published in 1960, he has produced 20 volumes of poetry along with numerous records, stories, screenplays and children’s books. His Collected Poems (1995), a tome of 1200 pages, shattered all Danish sales records for poetry. Parts of his work have been translated into 24 languages, but little of his poetry is available in English. Now 84 years old, he continues to write and to perform to sold-out audiences in Denmark. He lives near Copenhagen.

Marianne Koluda Hansen (1951-2014) lived most of her life in Copenhagen, Denmark, where she wrote four books of poetry and two novels. She received her teaching degree in 1979 and taught English and Danish at a school for adults for 30 years. She was also an artist who held several exhibitions.

By translating a Danish copy of Catcher in the Rye word for word, Michael Goldman taught himself Danish over 25 years ago to help him win the heart of a lovely Danish girl—and they have been married ever since. In the past two years he has received six translation grants for his work with 5 distinguished Danish writers, among them Denmark’s most popular, all-time best-selling poet Benny Andersen. Michael’s translations have appeared in 16 literary journals and his original poetry appears in the current fall issue of Poet Lore. He lives in Florence, Mass. (www.hammerandhorn.net)

Featured Image by Kenny Ong.

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