WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2009-01 > 1233432636
From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [W-OBITS] CHRISTENSEN: Inger Christensen 2009
Date: Sat, 31 Jan 2009 20:10:36 -0000
Prolific poet who experimented with number sequences as well as words
Last Updated: 6:46PM GMT 26 Jan 2009
Danish poet Inger Christensen won a number of international awards,
including the 1969 Danish critics prize, the Nordic Prize of the Swedish
Academy in 1994 and the German Siegfried Unseld award in 2006 Photo: EPA
Inger Christensen, the award-winning Danish writer who has died aged 73,
built experimental poems, essays and novels around systematised and
Although something of a recluse, Inger Christensen was one of Denmark's most
famous and prolific poets, and best known for her poetry collections det
[it] (1969) and Alphabet (1981). Her poetry, concise and suggestive, has
clarity and immense beauty as well as great intelligence.
She was often mentioned among probable candidates for a Nobel Literature
Considered the foremost experimentalist of her generation, Inger Christensen
took as her central theme the space between language and experience, reality
and words. "I have attempted to tell about a world that does not exist in
order to make it exist," she said.
As a so-called "systemic" poet, she worked with a prearranged matrix. But
her readers did not need to know the system to appreciate the poems. As well
as words Inger Christensen considered numbers as dynamic systems in which
nature could be expressed.
Her book-length poem Alphabet, for example, was structured around the first
14 letters of the alphabet from "a" (apricot trees) to "n" (nights) and on
the Fibonacci numerical sequence (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34e_SLps), in
which every term is the sum of the two previous ones. Starting with "The
apricot trees exist", the poem is most importantly about the inevitability
of destruction, as exemplified in the word "hydrogen", an element essential
to life, but also to the world's most destructive bombs.
"The numerical ratios exist in nature," Inger Christensen explained. "The
way a leek wraps around itself from the inside, and the head of a sunflower,
are both based on this series."
Her poetry readings were exceptional. "She read with charm - in the sense of
a magic spell," said Professor Dan Ringgaard of rhus University, "like a
siren captivating whoever was there."
In the 1970s Inger Christensen turned to essays, novels and children's books
before returning to poetry with Alphabet and the 1991 Sommerfugledalen (The
Butterfly Valley), which critics hailed as her masterpiece.
"She extracted from the sterile and often monotone world of systematic
poetry a unique richness of intonations, using an impersonal system to
create highly personal poetry," noted Professor Erik Nielsen of Copenhagen
University. Inger Christensen "is difficult to nail down but no one doubts
her presence, because she emits an almost unwavering force," he added.
Inger Christensen was born on January 16 1935 in the town of Vejle on the
eastern coast of Jutland, the daughter of a tailor. After graduating from
Vejle Gymnasium in 1954, she moved to Copenhagen and then to rhus, where
she trained as a teacher. She worked briefly at the College for Arts in
Holbk in 1964 before becoming a full-time writer.
Her major work from the 1960s was the large suite of poems called det, which
at one level reflected contemporary aesthetic, social and political topics,
but also explored existential questions.
In her chant-like poem The Action: symmetries (translation by Sheila La
Farge) Inger Christensen wrote: "Society can be so petrified / That's it's
all one solid block / Inhabitants so ossified / That life's in a state of
Her novels were considered less successful. Det malede vrelse (1976), about
the Italian Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna, had three different
narrators; one London critic found it "too mannered to seem more than an
exercise in style".
Inger Christensen also wrote children's books and several radio and
television plays. Her poems have been set to music by the Danish composers
Ib Nrholm and Svend Nielsen.
A member of the Royal Danish Academy, the European Academy of Poetry and the
Akademie der Kuenste (Academy of the Arts) in Berlin, Inger Christensen
received numerous literary awards, including the Grand Prix at the
International Poetry Biennal in 1995.
Inger Christensen, who died on January 2, married the poet and critic Poul
Borum in 1959, but the couple divorced in 1976.
|[W-OBITS] CHRISTENSEN: Inger Christensen 2009 by "Peter McCrae" <>|