Translated and introduced by Anna Tebelius
This article appeared in the 2013:S issue.
Matilda Södergran is a young, Finland-Swedish poet, born in 1987. She currently lives in Sweden. She has a Bachelor’s degree in English literature and is now pursuing the translation studies programme at the University of Lund. She is also active as a literary critic.
Maror (She-Mares) is her third poetry collection; her first, Hon drar ådrorna ut (She is Drawing Out the Veins) was published in 2008 to great acclaim. In Maror Södergran continues to investigate the female body as myth and metaphor. She examines the perceived constrictions surrounding its functions, its construction as an object to gaze upon and the discomfort that follows as well as its desires. Södergran’s experimental language is filled with images of hair repeatedly being removed or entangled in the words, of mouths being stuffed, gagged or inappropriate. The poems express their repetitive urgency in a form that constantly distances the narrative voice through the use of a ‘you’. The Swedish poet and author Eva Ström, reviewing Maror, writes of Södergran’s poems as a representation of a poetry torn apart, at once existential, feminist and socio-critical. To me the poems feel both explosive and as if quietly whispered in my ear, they both command my attention and address me directly.
Sand in the firm braids. The mouth of the shell. Chewing the sand smooth.
The claim. The will to come near.
You spewed sand into the pockets of her dress.
It was uncanny. Your feet swollen by the sea.
The way you didn’t suit her dress, its loose custody.
The rising above the state. The pose.
You attempted to speak through the gag.
You don’t know what got into you. Then you dream. The thin stockings are always tearing. Laddering into long lines.
You forget to undress. You forget to sleep.
Materials itching like skin.
Let the sounds stay.
Let the sounds become what they may.
Let the chanting conclude in constipation.
You’re revealed by his gaze, his grasp.
All the hairs have been plucked from your body.
Strand by strand. All hairs have been withdrawn.
Is it appropriate for you to ask questions.
The smell of cooking. The hair scattered like tufts across the floor.
It is quite possible to make a human static.
In the middle of it you write.
In the hearth a cluster of hooves are being pulverised, the fragrance of this exceptionally dry summer:
The lilacs the cordial in the garden the garden furniture.
Your damp upper lip covered in ash.
They all want to adorn you.
You’re not ready.
Perhaps you phrase this in a different manner:
Everything is already at a standstill. Like the skin that stands the hairs, the
indifference. You’ve been disconnected from your self. Lying still in the moss,
the dampness re-forms, the itch and the languidness of your lust.
Are you elsewhere now when it moves?
The filthy tongue in the forest.
The crown canopy unyielding and you’ve chosen not to be in control,
or maybe rather this:
You’re peculiar. He won’t help you with that.
Porridge smeared around your mouth. In your eyes.
The contemplation of what’s possible to say (vs. not to say).
The plain between the breasts. The crucible.
The parched landscape crackles. The withered wheat.
The drought that declines to define itself. Etc. Etc.
A manner for you.