an essay on midges by Jan Wagner translated by Iain Galbraith

an essay on midges


as if all the letters had suddenly
floated free of a paper
and formed a swarm in the air;

they form a swarm in the air,
of all that bad news telling us
nothing, those skimpy muses, wispy

pegasuses, only abuzz with the hum
of themselves, made from the last twist
of smoke as the candle is snuffed,

so light you can hardly say: they are –
looking more like shadows, umbrae
jettisoned by another world

to enter our own, they dance, their legs
finer than anything pencil can draw,
with their miniscule sphinx-like bodies;

the rosetta stone, without the stone.


By Jan Wagner

Translated by Iain Galbraith


From the collection Self-Portrait with a Swarm of Bees by Jan Wagner, translated by Iain Galbraith (Arc Publications). Iain Galbraith was announced as the winner of The Poetry Society’s Popescu European Poetry Translation Prize, which was judged by Olivia McCannon and Clare Pollard and supported in 2015 by the British Council. For more information here.

Category: Translations


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