T H R O U G H  
 
N A K E D   B R A N C H E S

SELECTED POEMS OF TARJEI VESAAS

Translated, edited, and introduced by Roger Greenwald
Bilingual Edition
WINNER OF THE AMERICAN-SCANDINAVIAN FOUNDATION TRANSLATION PRIZE

(N.B. This book has 197 pages. The last numbered page is 145 because the front matter is numbered with Roman numerals.)

 
Tarjei Vesaas, one of Scandinavia’s greatest fiction writers of the twentieth century, was also one of Norway’s major modern poets. As often happens in such cases, the fiction has overshadowed the poetry, especially in translation. In Through Naked Branches, Roger Greenwald, an award-winning poet and translator of Scandinavian poetry, presents a selection he has drawn from Vesaas’s six volumes of poetry with the aim of revealing the distinctive sensibility and voice of Vesaas the poet. The Norwegian texts of the forty-six poems appear facing the English versions, which won the American-Scandinavian Foundation Translation Prize.

Vesaas’s poetry has roots in an oral tradition from Telemark that includes both narratives and sung poems. It is also strongly rooted in the Norwegian landscape; yet far from being a naive throwback to Romanticism, it is thoroughly modern poetry that embodies a sophisticated grasp of humans’ relation to the natural world. Vesaas’s settings, his deliberate pace with its resonant pauses, his listener’s stance, his occasional echoes of tradition or interjections of colloquial comment, and above all his striking ability to convey wordless inner experience — all these features combine to create a unique ethos and an immediately recognizable style. Vesaas emerges as a lyric and meditative poet of uncommon depth, who renders states of being beyond the reach not only of discourse, but of most poetry as well.

Greenwald’s groundbreaking introductory essay explores why Vesaas’s poetry has often resisted critical analysis and how it challenges received notions of modernism, which focus on the visual and the urban. A collage of excerpts from Vesaas’s writings about himself and his work supplies helpful background and gives some sense of the man behind the work. These materials support the reader’s encounter with the core of this book: a careful selection of Vesaas’s best poems, in finely honed English versions.

 
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