Poems from a Polar Night

The Last Glimpse of the Sun before the Long Polar Night, Qaanaaq, Greenland, 2011)

The clock is ticking before the publication of my second short story featuring Constable David Maratse from East Greenland. I have made a point of including poems from the collection called Isblink, by Ludvig Mylius-Erichsen (1872-1907), to set the scene. He died leading the Danmark Ekspedition in 1907, and his poems from a previous expedition help frame my stories. But, I don’t want to talk too much about Ludvig, as Sarah Acton – resident poet – and I have exciting news about him to be announced at a later date. Rather, I want to talk about containment.

The poem I have chosen for my short story Container is from Erichsen’s poem entitled Polarnat (Danish) or Polar Night (direct translation). I was looking for something to capture the feeling of isolation and imprisonment, and Erichsen’s words taken from his experiences of the Polar Night seemed to work.

I have experienced seven Arctic winters, two of them in complete darkness. They say you can go crazy in the dark. I don’t think I am crazy. But the winter has left its mark, shaping in part my stories and novels.

Poems shape my stories too, and here is the latest translation for my short story.

What shall I do with myself,
What thoughts should I fiddle with?
To lose myself in Time and Place?
Each sleepless Day without Peace
To dream in pain each Sleep, I know.

Author’s translation from
POLARNAT
by
LUDVIG MYLIUS-ERICHSEN (1872-1907)

Hvor skal jeg gøre af mig selv,
hvad skal min Tanke sysle med?
Hvordan forglemme Tid og Sted?
Hver søvnløs Dag er uden Fred
og drømmepint hver Søvn, jeg véd.

Curious, eh? Well, I can say that the story echoes the poem – just as dark, just as painful, like the Polar Night … sometimes.

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