Theater of Cruelty

The real-life literature

It's just a matter of time. Calendar poem 2014–2018
Regissør: Eldrid Lunden

Genuine and personal poetry collection from Eldrid Lunden.


Eldrid Lunden, the country's first professor of writing and long-time active as general manager of the Author's Study in Bø, is presenting his first collection of poems in thirteen years. Her poetry still has the same format as before: Short, sometimes even wordless poems, which nevertheless convey a lot to us readers, not because Lunden's life and death should express so much between the lines, but rather because she masters the pregnant and significant . In the first poem, she addresses one who we quickly understand was the husband, spouse, life partner and life partner. He is gone, dead, and present, present, a face that comes to mind and consciousness. This is written both soberly and with what we might call the good and absolutely necessary pathos, unsentimental and sincere, not least because Lunden leads this private dimension into a more general observation about the very phenomenon of love, she quotes Seneca the Younger, as in a Letter to the son writes that after the grief of the loss, a new person must be found to love. It may seem like a merciless injunction, but is really meant as a warning against worshiping the dead.

It treats, observes, visualizes, actualizes and sometimes also ironises over both the real and the personal-private.

But Lunden likes to make the leap from one poem to the next, the theme or focus changes, often within the poem, and she quotes willingly from other writers, such as Aksel Sandemose, which she reproduces as follows: One person never gets up to date, we have enough to figure out what we have all lived. This goes completely across the quote from Seneca, and Lunden really juxtaposes two completely different types of sensitivity to one another, one stoic, the other Freudian. One sees here that such contrasting perspectives on life and not least time is an important, yes, perhaps also a crucial condition for Lund's own poetry, she does not make quotes for the sake of quotation, but to show readers in an indirect and quirky way that life we live, in one sense is impossible and in another sense possible to live with. Formulated in short format: The vast majority have both a Seneca and a Sandemose in the stomach.

Applied unreality

Also the title of the collection is a quote, based on Karen Blixen: It is just a matter of time / when the ideal will break through and call itself nature / Man began to walk upright / and get rid of his tail / because it deeply desired it. This could be called the evolution of ideology, a slow but sure process that gradually separates humanity from nature, the culture from the natural world. It is quite clear where we are today: in the collective denial of belonging to the life premise we need to survive as a species. This one quote could also transform Lund's collection into a kind of activist call for better environment and healthier climate, but in that case it is an extremely low-key call, and additionally reasonably ironic (from Blixen's side). The thing is, we refuse to be part of nature, in the course of history we steer away from it, into civilizations, into decay, perhaps both Blixen and Lunden would say. Or more precisely: into the collective stupidity. Here, Lunden contributes two quotes on the same page:

We humans think we can apply to the left

unreality, said Erich Fromm.


Vengeance is not even more remarkable yet

refine intelligence, said Seneca the younger.

With regard to Fromm's claim, it is most likely that the anti-Semite Hitler actually did it with the people of Germany: the lies about the Jews became popular religion and deadly-dogmatic quasi-science. Seneca's assertion only confirms this, evil and stupidity went hand in hand with Nazism, and hundreds of thousands of upright, highly educated Germans were lured and seduced by the regime's mediocre, banal fictions about a subversive race in the midst of them. The most striking thing here is that Seneca's ancient wisdom also applies today, and it gives Lund's collection a strong and clear anthropological tendency. She quotes Henry David Thoreau, who says that man is Nature looking into nature. Here you can think of some poems Lunden has written about deer roaming around her house. There are few deer in this collection, but they play a role in the larger, global context that hangs over contemporary (and contemporary literature). Today, over 150 years later, Thoreau had to define man as Consumer looking into nature. Serious changes have occurred to us, perhaps first and foremost in relation to nature, it disappears farther and farther away, becomes more and more exotic, and more and more people are willing to look up and experience it up close, in Svalbard or far inside the Amazon, as if to fill up a yearning for the wilderness song.

A genre of its own

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this collection of just over seventy pages is that, despite so many quotes, it seems genuine and personal. It is Lund's poetic project we are witnessing here, it is perhaps also because the quotes concern us, either directly or indirectly, but you may discover it only after a while. And at the same time she gives her own deceased partner a lot of space: Two of the collection's six departments address him directly, de is her memory of him, of the life they lived and shared with each other. In many ways, collections like this are the real-life literature because they treat, observe, visualize, actualize and sometimes also ironize over both real and personal-private. At the same time, it is chemically cleansed of any form of embarrassing narcissism, it is, like Lund's earlier collections, oriented, perhaps first and foremost, to human nature, culture and civilization, that governs and characterizes us continuously. It is almost as if she has accumulated her own genre, a quiet, but strong at the same time. And much of the strength lies in using well-chosen and relevant contributions from other authors, a testament to a generosity that is quite rare in these self-proclaimed times among Norwegian literatures. Here and now you really only need one thing from Lunden: Don't let it go thirteen years until next time!

Kurt Sweeney
Kurt Sweeney
Literary critic.

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