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


Translated, edited, and introduced by Roger Greenwald

Boston: Black Widow Press
Paperback. US $19.95
ISBN 978-0-9995803-4-9


(N.B. This book has 198 pages. The last page numbered with Arabic numerals is 150 because the front matter is numbered with Roman numerals.)

Read four poems from the book

Read reviews of the original edition (2000)

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“Poetry masterful in both its vision and its form.”
— Martin A. Hansen

“Through Naked Branches startled and thrilled me. Tarjei Vesaas is a brilliantly original and speculative poet. ‘There is an endless seeing by no one,’ Vesaas maintains, and his poems probe that ‘seeing’ in lyrics quite unlike anything most readers of modern poetry are accustomed to. [These] poems deserve a high place in the pantheon of world poetry.”  — Jay Parini

“If everything in the living and dead world would sing to me, the language of the songs would contain the phrasings and turns and intersections of these poems.”  — Michael Burkard

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, the poet Roger Greenwald, winner of many awards for his translations 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 narrative 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.


ROGER GREENWALD grew up in New York City, where he attended City College and the Poetry Project workshop at St. Mark’s Church In-the-Bowery. In 1994 he won the CBC Radio / Saturday Night Literary Award for poetry (for unpublished work). His poems have appeared in numerous journals (The World, Panjandrum, Poetry East, Pequod, The Spirit That Moves Us, Pleiades, etc.) and in several anthologies. Connecting Flight was his first book of poems; he published his second book, Slow Mountain Train, in 2015, and his third, The Half-Life, in 2020.

He has received major translation prizes in Canada and the U.S., including the F. R. Scott, the Richard Wilbur, the Inger Sjöberg, and the American-Scandinavian Foundation Translation Prizes; the Lewis Galantière Award; and the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets.


Watch the launch at Ben McNally Books, Toronto, 12 November 2018 (below)

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