Songs of Earth and Light

Songs of Earth and Light
Southword Editions, 2005.
Poems by Barbara Korun. Translated from Slovene by Theo Dorgan

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The elements of Barbara Korun's poems are easily stated: light, earth, air, stars, the animal realm, her beloved karst landscape, the sovereign erotics of being human. What gives these poems their lift and savour, however, is not so easily named. Korun is both blunt and subtle, at once fantastically delicate and brutally direct as she confronts the terror and mystery and rough joys of being a mind incarnate– or, if you prefer, a thinking animal. Nobody now writing in English is as daring or clear-eyed about desire at the twin edges of meaning and fear.

What critics have said:

"This is an amazing book by a courageous and visionary poet from Slovenia. Barbara Korun's direct voice is haunting and full of surprises, Theo Dorgan's translations propelling it into English pieces that leave most American poetry behind." -The Bloomsbury Review

"Theo Dorgan's delicate translations of the Slovene poet Barbara Korun's equally delicate yet precise poems of love and loss are generous, faithful echoes of the strongly-gendered voice of the original." -The Irish Times


Selected Poems from Songs of Earth and Light




When I come

I will not be singing,

I will simply be there.

I will be light

that makes flowers grow,

prompts people to make love.


Everything is possible. Everything.


Light pours from the belly.

All is forgiven,

all is settled.

Every leaf will shivering with love.







The Assumption


I lie on your shoulder.

Dusk like a great black poppy

nods in the valley.

The bright milk of the West

flows from the mountain peaks.

The warm earth is wide-awake,

steams in the evening grass.

Lower and ever closer, the sky’s embrace.

Everything fading, dissolving into mist;

even your body is disappearing

into the deep, dark sky.




White Room


A room, then, a white room,

walls bright with limewash,

white shutters, bare wooden floor;

a bed in this empty room

and, in the far corner, two rucksacks.

Through the wide-open window

the smell of pines breaking in.


Rasp of cicadas dying away.

A bed in this room, this white room,

a couple sprawled there in blank heat,

gazing into a sky so blue they

are drowning in distance.

Legs, hips, hearts are touching –

but their eyes are turned towards

the high blue, they are rapt in the infinite.

This is how souls touch,

how they go to each other

under the skin and deeper yet…


Do I cover you, all of you?

Do you find shelter, here in me?


Here in the quiet, souls in their silence

Pour one into another, bound

in filaments of light.

There are rainbow patterns

on the milky ceiling,

soft explosions of colour.


Is anything softer than your finger tips?

What do your lips taste of?

Let me taste your heart’s pulse, let me

feel the blood sway in your veins.

I would lie here for hours

unmoving in the silence,

just listening.


The world breaks in the white blank of noon.

Everything falls away, only your closeness

is ever closer, ever more present and yes,

this is powerful, yes, I too am afraid;

I am being so careful

not to hurt you, not to hurt myself


Slowly now, no need to hurry,

time falls away, space falls away,

now there is only you.

Like this, the sea opening before Moses.

Like this, the world opening before me.

All that there is beats in your body,

beats in your heart.

Let me be closer still, let me

be deeply, completely inside you. Let me be you…


And then, the miracle. With a word, a touch,

you admit me to the moonlit glade of your self.

I can wade through the undergrowth of your groin,

rest in the soft nest of you navel,

I can lick at your armpits as a deer licks her fawn,

I can flick at your little ears,

I can drill my tongue into the whorls of your heart.

Sweet shivering shakes my body, too.

I can taste your every perception, your every thought.

The membrane of solitude stretches and bursts,

I am flooded in waves of you.

I am entranced by your big toes,

your big toes bring me joy!

Coarse skin on your heels, imagine that!

What a wonderful playground, your body,

a surprise at every step. We are like children

at play in each other, at play in the infinite sea.

No fear yet. No shame yet.

Everything here is one: yourself, myself, the sea, the sea.

Copyright ©2005 Barbara Korun

English translation Copyright ©2005 Theo Dorgan





Barbara Korun


Barbara Korun was born in 1963 in Ljubljana. Her collection Ostrina Miline (The Edge of Grace, Mladinska Knjiga 1999) received the National Book Fair Award for a debut collection. Her other collections of poetry & prose poems are Zapiski Iz Podmizja (Notes from under the Table, Apokalipsa 2003) and Razpoke (Fissures, Nova Revija 2004). A small chapbook in English, Chasms, appeared from Poetry Miscellany Publications, UT Chattanooga USA, in 2003.

A leading figure in a generation of radical young women poets, her work has been published in many anthologies and reviews, in twelve languages. She works on the editorial boards of the literary journals Apokalipsa and Nova Revija.




Theo Dorgan



Theo Dorgan is a poet, broadcaster, translator, editor and documentary scriptwriter. His poetry collections include The Ordinary House of Love, Rosa Mundi and Sappho’s Daughter. His work has been translated into many languages, including a selected poems in Italian, La Casa ai Margini del Mondo, and a Spanish–language edition of Sappho’s Daughter, La Hija de Safo. He is the editor of Irish Poetry Since Kavanagh, and co-edited Revising the Rising, The Great Book of Ireland, the anthology Watching The River Flow and An Leabbar Mór, the Great Book of Gaelic. His Jason and The Argonauts, to music by Howard Goodall, was commissioned by and premiered in the Royal Albert Hall in 2004. Sailing for Home, his prose memoir of an Atlantic crossing under sail, was published in late 2004. He is a member of Aosdána and of The Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon.

Born in Cork in 1953, he lives in Dublin.




























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