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King's Lynn Sorbet

Posted by Arc, 27th September 2012

And so the tour has begun

- in style with Kristiina Ehin and Ludwig Steinherr at King's Lynn Poetry Festival.

Ludwig was on top form, reading beautifully, giving it the space and weight that his philosophical poems need to be appreciated. He had measured the pace of his reading perfectly, and the audience reponded attentively. He talked of his translator, Richard Dove, more friend than colleague, who he's been working with for nearly 20 years.

In the age-old debate on whether to introduce poems or not, Ludwig is clearly on the side of letting the poems speak for themselves. And they do.

Kristiina chose a short story for her second reading set, which was unexpected but delightful, in only the way Kristiina can be - ethereal and earthed simultaneously. Her reading style is deliberate and composed, while her rhythm surprises, ensuring constant attention.

Both poets highlighted the rewards of hearing non-English language poems read aloud. Ludwig's accent has such rounded edges; Kristiina's is of the trees.

Such an experience is the sorbet of a poetry reading event: you're offered musicality, sound and rhythm, as distinct from sense. Mystery. Although one sense of the poem is derived from the hearing it in its original language. Just as we can decode body language so too we can the tone and texture of language even if we don't literally understand its mystery And as such we absorb it, 'hear' it, differently. It is a musical interlude.

Then, with the double bonus of hearing the translated versions, comes insights with a European sensibility, perspectives from a different history, other frames of reference, reminding me (at least) in this technologically shrunken world, it is still vast, wondrous and continually unexpected.

Roll on Iceland!

Kristiina Ehin
Kristiina Ehin