Emily Dickinson: On My Volcano

Poems selected and recreated in Danish by Bente Clod

A Word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.
Emily Dickinson, about 1862
In spite of all this, Letters of Emily Dickinson was published anyway in two volumes the 21. of November 1894. Interesting in spite of all that had been eluded – or maybe just because of it. Dickinsons friendship with a married priest Charles Wadsworth turned into a full blown love affair. The old ladies, who used to be Emily’s classmates, were eager to tell Mabel Loomis Todd the thruth about whether Emily had a fancy for cousin John or cousin Peter. The Literary Professors were eagerly digging in the surviving, cut up letters. Not just to find the unidentified love affair in Dickinson’s life, but also to get a whole picture of the woman behind the poems. Swindlers sold Real Dickinson-letters to large sums of money, and Lavinia bought herself new furniture for the income on the book sale.
    There was however one person, who never got anything for her enormous efforts, and that is Mabel Loomis Todd. Through Austins strong feelings for Mabel, Lavinia has a close relation to the Todds, who help and advise her in many ways, escorting her when she had to leave the house. Yet Lavinia only pays Mabel about 100 dollars altogether for her ten years of work with Emily’s manuscripts, poems and letters. Although they’re close friends, Lavinia sees any access to Emily’s original manuscripts as an honour, you should be grateful to achieve.
    Austin realizes the problem and gives Mabel a piece of land, which adjoins to her own piece of land. The land, which they love and plant together, is meant as a compensation for her efforts. But before Austin manages to add this piece of land in his last will, he dies in 1895 after a few weeks of being sick, and Lavinia suddenly cannot remember anything about any gift.
From the introduction, p. 40 in On My Volcano

Excerpts of On My Volcano

For at lave en prærie kræves der en kløver og en bi
én kløver og én bi
og drømmeri.
Og kniber det med bier
er det nok med drømmerier.
J1755/Fr1755, p. 196 in On My Volcano
Vi leger med ler –
til vi kan klare perler –
slipper da leret –
og føler os tåbelige –
men formen var – dog – ens –
og vores nye hænder
lærte ædelstens-taktik –
ved øvelser i sand –
J320/Fr288, p. 84 in OMV
Sjælen kan snøres ind –
til hun står stivnet af skræk –
og mærker en dødningegru krybe nær
og standse og se hende an –
hilse – med knokkelfingre –
stryge – hendes strittende hår –
drik, trold, af netop de læber
som elskeren – dvælede – ved –
uværdigt, at en tanke så lav
antaster noget – så – fint –
sjælen kan flygte afsted –
så alle døre sprænges –
hun danser som en bombe, væk
og boltrer sig på timerne,
som bien gør – beruset vakt –
så længe skilt fra rosen –
frisat og ør – sanser den intet
andet end paradiset –
sjælens generobrede stunder –
hvor den trækkes rundt som forbryder
med lænker om en vinget fod,
og nagler i sin sang,
rædslen hilser hende velkommen igen,
dette har ingen talt højt om –
J512/Fr360, p. 122 in OMV
Vi snakkede som piger gør –
gerne, og sent –
endevendte alle emner pånær graven –
ikke vores gebet –
vi håndterede skæbner så kækt – som om –
det tilkom os – at råde –
og Gud blot observerede
hvordan vi disponerede –
allerhelst dvælede vi ved
hvordan vi mon – ville blive –
blidt opdraget fra piger til kvinder
med del – i denne – rang –
vi skiltes med en pagt
at huske hinanden og skrive
men himlen hindrede begge dele
før næste nat var givet.
J586/Fr392, p. 129 in OMV
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.
J1755/Fr1755, p. 196 in On My Volcano
We play at Paste –
Till qualified, for Pearl –
Then, drop the Paste –
And deem ourself a fool –
The Shapes – though – were similar –
And our new Hands
Learned Gem-Tactics –
Practicing Sands –
J320/Fr288, p. 84 in OMV
The Soul has Bandaged moments –
When too appalled to stir –
She feels some ghastly Fright come up
And stop to look at her –
Salute her – with long fingers –
Caress her freezing hair –
Sip, Goblin, from the very lips
The Lover – hovered – o’er –
Unworthy, that a thought so mean
Accost a Theme – so – fair –
The soul has moments of Escape –
When bursting all the doors –
She dances like a Bomb, abroad,
And swings upon the Hours,
As do the Bee – delirious borne –
Long Dungeoned from his Rose –
Touch Liberty – then know no more,
But Noon, and Paradise –
The Soul’s retaken moments –
When, Felon led along,
With shackles on the plumed feet,
And staples, in the Song,
The Horror welcomes her, again,
These, are not brayed of Tongue –
J512/Fr360, p. 122 in OMV
We talked as Girls do –
Fond, and late –
We speculated fair, on every subject, but the Grave –
Of our’s, none affair –
We handled Destinies, as cool –
As we – Disposers – be –
And God, a Quiet Party
To our Authority –
But fondest, dwelt upon Ourself
As we eventual – be –
When Girls to Women, softly raised
We – occupy – Degree –
We parted with a contract
To cherish, and to write
But Heaven made both, impossible
Before another night.
J586/Fr392, p. 129 in OMV

The press wrote …

Bo Hakon Jørgensen, Kristeligt Dagblad:

This is only one example of the things Dickinson is capable of. There are many more in Bente Clod’s bilingual edition of the poems […] I am not sure that I in English would have discovered all the jewels of Dickinson’s inner universe, that Clod displays in Danish.

Liselotte Wiemer, Weekendavisen:

Closed revelation. The author Bente Clod has done a new translation of a selection of poems by Emily Dickinson. She was nobody, cannot be compared to any other poet and is thus the private property of everyone.

Jørgen Johansen, Berlingske Tidende:

In the book On My Volcano Bente Clod has selected and translated 142 of the poems and added a thorough introduction, accounting splendidly for the quiet drama inside of and surrounding the figure of Emily Dickinson.

Kirsten Katholm, Reader’s Statement for the libraries:

Comprehensive collection […] at the end of the book there are references and several indexes in Danish and American […] this edition is well-written and thorough and makes a fine introduction also for new readers of the world famous poet.

Mikkel Bruun Zangenberg, Politiken:

Swooningly sweet, Dickinson … with perfect pitch Bente Clod has translated one of the world’s best poets into good Danish […] Dickinson’s poems […] sizzle and whisper out of the top of a volcano on a background of a deceitfully quiet and eccentric life that was the source of words.

John Chr. Jørgensen, Ekstra Bladet:

For those who love proud women and strong poetry, here is the obvious present: Dickinson and Södergran.

Henning Prins, Helsingør Dagblad:

As appears from the book, where Bente Clod commendably has placed her translations directly opposite the originals so that we can instantly estimate her translation. I do so and say: Outstanding! Congratulations to Bente Clod, Emily Dickinson and Tiderne Skifter!

Michael Back Henriksen, Kristeligt Dagblad, December 2005:

It is two of the very best authors from the 1800s USA, now available in Danish. Both Emily Dickinson and Henry David Thoreau are classics from … the American renaisscence … a fertile period, culminating with the publication of Herman Melville’s long novel about Captain Ahab’s hunt of the white whale Moby Dick in 1851.

Buy On My Volcano here