The poetic work of Eldrid Lunden is some of the most important, not only in Norway, but also in a Nordic context. Her status as writer has been strengthened by her position as director of Creative Studies at Bø in Telemark, Norway’s first academic writing academy, established on her initiative in the 1980s. Her influence on the younger generation of writers is enormous, not only as a poet, but also as a mentor and experienced reader.
Lunden’s writing reconciles seemingly impossible polarities: her factual, often rhetorical diction is fused with the heartfelt and vulnerable. Reflection and emotion are so tautly welded in the poems that they can appear withdrawn into themselves, in their hearkening inwards and outwards in the language, particularly in her 1970s publications, Inneringa (1975; Circumvented), Hard, mjuk (1976; Hard, soft) and Mammy, blue (1977).
Even though the poems are visual and specific in their depiction, they still always seem closely linked to a subject or a mood. This is also the case where the poetic persona is absent. Eldrid Lunden’s poetry often springs out of the senses and from bodily experience, and absorbing the environment and natural surroundings seems as essential to her work as an historical and social awareness; that is, her poems insist that there has never been any contradiction between the senses and thought.
From her work in the 70s to her two latest publications, Til stades (2000; In Place) and Flokken og skuggen (2005; The Flock and the Shadow), Eldrid Lunden’s language has expanded considerably. The meticulous, almost step-by step portraits of the young woman Anna in Mammy, blue – her daily life, her thoughts and sense impressions where each new line changes the course of the poem’s meaning and expression – these have with the years been replaced by poems needing more space, more words and a larger graphic format. The exploration of sensual categories up against the cognitive – starting out from a restricted, almost claustrophically situated persona as in many of her earlier poems – has now given way to an investigation into knowledge and life in general. Til stades is written as a travelogue through the history of civilization (especially that of the Romans) where the possibility to reconstruct past times is expressed through discursive, almost essayistic poems.
Through over forty years Eldrid Lunden has shown us her ability to renew herself through her unflinching work on language and perception, yet her concerns and themes have remained constant: the core of Lunden’s poetics is that it is essential for us as human beings to formulate our lives. Only by managing to formulate one’s life will a human being approach something that resembles freedom, whether as a social being or on the individual level – as Lunden says in one of her poems from Gjenkjennelsen (1982; The Recognition):
You have to decide if you want to be someone
expressed now, you have to change your language
for your dear life.