Butterfly Valley (Paperback)
New Directions Publishing Corporation, 9780811215794, 69pp.
Publication Date: June 17, 2004
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Inger Christensen, often cited as a Nobel contender and one of Europe's most revered poets, is perhaps best known for her groundbreaking work Det (It), a cycle of poems published in 1969. Her first book published in the U.S., alphabet (New Directions, 2001), met with a tremendous response: "Seductive," said Boston Review. "A visionary reincarnation of the natural world in the atomic age," wrote The Chicago Review. Butterfly Valley: A Requiem collects four medium-length works, each startling for its beauty and formal innovation. "Butterfly Valley" is a sonnet cycle in which the glowing colors and beauty of butterflies are described, and yet also their obvious fragility and mortality: memory is uncovered in the poem like the fluttering of their wings. In "Watersteps," the fountains and piazzas of Rome coalesce, brought alive by the imagination in the poem's shifting rhythms, lines, and overall structure. In "Poem on Death" the poet seeking immortality faces the whiteness of the page as the blankness of death: "it feels so odd/ immodest to think/ about death when no one/ you know has died/ it means that each time/ you look at yourself in the mirror/ you look death in the eye/ without crying/ like a clear and fully/ comprehensible answer/ but to questions/ you dare not ask." "Meeting" describes a "coming together," yet examines our failure to connect and the ability of language to overcome this. It is written in extended sections, with pathos, anger, and sly humor.