Poetry To Short Stories
Naja Marie Aidt
The first short story writers I discovered were mostly Scandinavian. And there is a strong, strong tradition that goes all the way back for short stories in Scandinavia. So, that was pretty easy. You would just go to the library and pick up books. And that would be people like a writer called Herman Bang who’s an extremely, extremely wonderful Danish short story writer, and other one called Johannes V. Jensen. And there’s a Norwegian short story writer who’s still alive, I think he’s 94 or something, called Kjell Askildsen. And he’s wonderful too. So, that would be like all the local writers.
And from there on, I would go to Hemingway, and Jayne Anne Phillips in the ’80s, other American short story writers, Grace Paley, Raymond Carver.1 So, my inspiration was mostly actually the American short stories throughout the ’90s. I kind of discovered the American short story. And I found out that there’s a difference between the — you can call it more of a novella in a way. I mean, people like Herman Bang, the Danish writer would do more novellas like long short stories, and then the American short story, like Raymond Carver stories that is so different in many ways, the way you kind of jump into the story in the middle of it in a way, and then you enter in the middle of it too.
So, that was huge inspiration. But in a way, it was just the — I never thought I would actually write short stories. I wanted to do poetry only. But then at some point, I felt that all this fiction, all those fiction stories would kind of enter my poetry, and I didn’t like that at all. So, there would be like characters suddenly in my poetry. And I thought, well I better do some prose to get rid of it.
So, I did like maybe how many, like 11 or 13 short stories, and I put them in my drawer, and I went back to poetry. And then, it was a coincidence in a way that a fellow writer, my own age asked me, “Why don’t you ever do fiction? I mean, did you ever write anything?” And I admired him very much. He was a really good short story writer. So, I had him read my short stories. And he was like, “You send them into the publishing house right away, because it’s really good.” And so, I did. So, it was a coincidence in a way. I never meant to write fiction, I only wanted to do poetry.
What I love about the short story is — I mean, I think it’s natural. There’s a natural way of transferring yourself from poetry to short stories, because it’s still short, you still have to be very precise. You can’t spend time on details that’s not extremely important to the story. You have to really stay focused, and you have to look at every single word, and make sure the rhythm is correct, everything. So, it reminds me of poetry, the saga reminds me of poetry in many ways. And I think I kind of carried my working process, the way I work with poetry into fiction, so that I would consider the short stories as poems in a way, but also of course as fiction.
So, I think my first collection of short stories that Denise Newman might translate into English also is very dramatic. It was definitely inspired by the Greenlandic tales, the fairy tale. But they were also very poetic. You can tell that I worked very much with the language.