Paal-Helge Haugen's Meditasjonar over Georges de La Tour (Meditations on Georges de La Tour) was published in Norwegian in 1990, won the Norwegian Critics' Prize, and was a finalist for the Nordic Council's Literature Prize. The book consists of a series of thirty-four poems that emerge from Haugen's long engagement with the work of the French painter.
The kinship between Haugen and La Tour can hardly be surprising to anyone familiar with Haugen's poetry and La Tour's paintings: light in all its aspects, including its absence, is central to both bodies of work. Haugen describes these poems as “meditations … on the charged stillness, sorrow and celebration in the marriage of light and dark.”
Haugen evokes, juxtaposes, and alludes more than he states, creating a dense web that joins his own world of imagery to La Tour's iconography and atmosphere. These meditations rest on constant tensions between different centuries and belief systems, between different art forms, and between the different but allied sensibilities of the poet and the painter whose work he contemplates.
Watch the Book Launch and Reading:
Praise for Paal-Helge Haugen:
“Haugen’s poems inhabit the ‘charged stillness’ at the heart of being. They are deeply and unsettlingly suggestive of an unfathomable proliferation we are part of but can’t access—’a system of measurement/ you do not know’—and also of our compulsion to try to represent it. I am grateful for Roger Greenwald’s translations of this important poet.” — Karen Solie, author of Pigeon
“These poems are dark yet streaked with a strange light, precise and sober, that illuminates hopeless yet oddly consoling truths. Haugen’s vision leaves the reader no place to hide, cuts through its own gloom like a floodlight to find us defenseless, heartbroken, without illusions, but touched with a music, in Roger Greenwald’s seamless English, that manages ‘to leave some hesitant / marks of happiness.’” — Stephen Kessler
“What has made Haugen’s voice carry across the generations since his debut in 1967 is his way of uniting formal variety with intimacy. At the same time as he tries out new ideas of form, he consistently challenges readers to participate in a struggle between passion and distance in which our humanity is at stake.” — Ulf Eriksson, Svenska Dagbladet
Roger Greenwald speaks with Open Book Toronto
Paal-Helge Haugen has published sixteen volumes of poetry since 1967, including two volumes of selected poems and one of collected poems. His poetry has earned him five of the most prestigious awards in Norway—the Brage Prize, the Gyldendal Prize, the Nynorsk Literature Prize, the Norwegian Critics’ Prize, and the Aschehoug Prize—as well as the Dobloug Prize, awarded by the Swedish Academy. His work has been translated into some twenty languages. Stone Fences, translated by William Mishler and Roger Greenwald, and Wintering with the Light, translated by Greenwald, are Haugen’s two earlier books in English. Haugen has published four volumes of translations into Norwegian, several children’s books, and an award-winning novel, Anne, which has been translated into several languages. He has also worked with visual artists on various projects and has collaborated with composers by writing six opera libretti.
Roger Greenwald grew up in New York, where he attended The City College and the St. Mark’s in-the-Bowery Poetry Project workshop. His first book of poems, Connecting Flight, was published in 1993. He has received several major awards for his poetry, including the CBC Radio/Saturday Night Literary Award (1994). His translations from Norwegian, Swedish and Danish have earned prizes in the U.S. and Canada.