Episodes

First
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
2020022320200229 (R4)

Poet Ailbhe Darcy delves into the poem 'alphabet' and what it means to her. It was published in 1981, by the Danish poet Inger Christensen. Written during the cold war, it's an account of living an ordinary life under the threat of nuclear devastation. The destructive force hanging over the poem is the atomic bomb, but the theme of ecological crisis is resonant today (and something Ailbhe explored in her own poem ‘Alphabet’, written in homage to Christensen, and published in her book 'Insistence').

Ailbhe looks at the remarkable form of Christensen's 'alphabet' - a kind of exploding poem which is organised both in alphabetical order and also according to the Fibonacci Series - and how that structure allowed both Christensen and Darcy to write at a time of crisis. She talks to translator Susanna Nied and the poets Marie Silkeberg, Joyelle McSweeney and Johannes Goransson about whether 'alphabet' weaves a spell of protection for all the things the poet loved, or catalogues them before they pass out of existence. Together they reveal a poem which through spirals and counter-spirals encapsulates both the beauty of the natural world and the potential for its extinction.

Produced by Megan Jones for BBC Cymru Wales

Poet Ailbhe Darcy explores the extraordinary Inger Christensen poem 'alphabet'.

Poet Ailbhe Darcy explores the extraordinary Inger Christensen poem 'Alphabet'.