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Review: Inside Voices, Outside Light, by Sigurdur Pálsson

It is impossible to read her enchanting, intensely beautiful poems as pieces which stand apart from the poet. The sense of her is everywhere and not just when she refers to herself directly. 'Woman, American, Jew,/three guardians watch over you' ('Bubble of Air'). Whilst rooted in experience, the poems are compellingly universal and far reaching. For a poet described by Adrienne Rich as having such a clear understanding of how 'individual life [...] is shaped in history and collectivity' it is perhaps not surprising that Rukeyser's work so effortlessly reaches beyond the quotidian. She presents familiar mythologies extracted from the self, which quicken the heart and resonate like a drum rhythm.
Rukeyser writes without fear, shameless and undefined by expectations of language, with poems ranging widely of content and form. All, it could be said, are touched with that which stirs so many philosophers and poets, those questions of existence and meaning.
[...]Selected poems, one cannot read Sigurdur Palsson's Inside Voices Outside Light, without a sense of the person writing them [...].
[...] Palsson's work which largely takes an observational stance and is deeply expressive of place. A kind of cold and glinting logic evocative of his Icelandic hoe and muse shines through which is like the 'gleam of light' which 'strikes the powerful glacier' in 'Land Possessed by Poems'. His words elucidate and reflect.
Bizarre, conceptional, starkly beautiful and, at times, positively perplexing, there is a humour which runs through the work which may not always be culturally accessible. In 'A Few Practical Exercises in Event Poetry', a conceptual poem which calls the reader to undertake a series of exercises which one supposes might themselves become the poem, he references himself as the guide, 'When the police arrive, wave a copy of Poems Took Power by Sigurdur Palsson and say it's all according to the book'. Often, Palsson draws our perspective back to focus on the art of the poem or himself, the poet. Often, he seems to invite us to se the written form as a kind of reporting of the event which is itself the poem. There is an offbeat mix of the self referential and a playful displacement of poetry to beyond the page.
We know from the introduction (and one can see at times from studying the Icelandic) that difficult decisions have been made in the translation. But ambiguity sits at the heart of much of the intrigue, engendering a sense of otherness. To read this collection is to go on a journey. [...]