Katrin Ottarsdóttir



Check Mate

Translated from the Faroese by Matthew Landrum and Sámal Soll


between the year and the day was a life
that did not want to be lived
full of wounds
that time could not heal

but the heart kept on beating
its stubborn beat
fingernails and hair grew by millimeters
sweat seeped beneath arms
and between legs
where blood also found its way
while curses blossomed and jesus and the devil listened to every word

the woman she saw reflected in the mirror
and in the eyes of other people
was never the same one
other people saw when they looked at her

she knew that

when will joy come to me
she asked the child
the child could not find an answer
just then

life would not take her
so she wouldn’t let herself take life
seriously either

she only knew
that existence needed to be put into
check mate




Skák Og Mát


ímillum ár og dag lá lívið
sum ikki vildi livast
fult av sárum
sum tíðin ikki dugdi at lekja

álíkavæl gekk hjartað so trúliga
sína treisku gongd
negl og hár vuksu sínar millimetrar
sveittin lak undir ørmum
og millum bein
har eisini blóðið fann sína kós
meðan forbannilsini blómaðu
og jesus og devulin sótu undir hvørjum orði

tann kvinnan hon sá í speglinum
og í eygunum á hinum
var aldrin tann sama
sum hini sóu tá tey hugdu at henni

tað visti hon

nær kemur gleðin til mín
spurdi hon barnið
sum ikki dugdi at svara
beint tá

lívið vildi ikki taka hana
fyri fult
tímdi hon at taka lívið
fyri fult

hon visti bara
at tilveran mátti setast
skák og mát




Thirteen Years

Translated from the Faroese by Matthew Landrum and Sámal Soll


there’s no one to talk with about everything that can’t be said
what doesn’t want to be said
only leonard cohen

black vinyl
spinning round and round before your eyes
that don’t want to understand everything
that’s not meant to be understood

the red plastic turn-table spins
and leonard’s words hit you right
where words are supposed to hit

you are his
in the foam mattress darkness
slowly moaning
beneath his voice

leonard watches over you
sends you coded words
that you only understand through raw instinct

he is yours while you are bleeding fear because the adults on the other side of the wall
have forgotten to be adult again

and my father’s hand was trembling
with the beauty of the world

his voice carries you into the night
almost beating back the adult sobs
that fill empty rooms in endless houses

you are his all night long
as you listen for footsteps that never come
on staircases that lead to nowhere

the foreign words can’t say everything
fumbling for the meaning in the impossible dark
sensing your role in the drama
you know you’ll never be good at


I will help you if I must
I will kill you if I can




13 Ár


ongin at tosa við um alt sum ikki ber til at siga
um onki sum aldrin vil sigast
bara leonard cohen

svart vinyl
malandi runt og runt fyri eygunum
sum ikki vilja skilja alt
sum ikki skal skiljast

reyður plátuspælari úr plastik
orðini hjá leonard raka teg beint har
sum orð skulu raka

tú ert hansara
í myrkrinum á skúmgummimadrassuni
sum spakuliga venar seg
undir hansara rødd

leonard ansar eftir tær
sendir tær hulin orð
tú bara skilur við ráa instinktinum

hann er tín meðan tú bløðir angist tí tey vaksnu hinumegin veggin
aftur hava gloymt at vera vaksin

and my fathers hand was trembling
with the beauty of the world

røddin ber teg inn í náttina
vinnur næstan á vaksna grátinum
sum hersetur tóm rúm í óendaligum húsum

tú ert hansara alla náttina
meðan tú lurtar eftir fetum ið ongantíð koma
á trappum sum ongan veg føra

fremmandu orðini avdúka aldrin alt
trilvandi eftir meiningini í ómøguligum myrkri
hómandi leiklutin í leikinum
sum tú veitst tú aldrin fert at duga so væl
at spæla við í


I will help you if I must
I will kill you if I can


Katrin Ottarsdóttir is a pioneer in Faroese filmmaking and has made several feature films, documentaries, shorts etc., e.g. the award winning feature films Atlantic Rhapsody (1989), Bye Bye Blue Bird (1999), and LUDO (2014). Born 1957 in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands, she studied film directing at the National Danish Film School. She debuted as a writer in 2012 with the poetry collection Are Copper Pipes In Heaven (awarded the Faroese Litterature Award 2013). In 2015 she published the poetry collection Mass For A Film, and in 2016 a collection of short stories, After Before.

Matthew Landrum holds and MFA from Bennington College. His translations from Faroese have recently appeared in Asymptote Journal, Michigan Quarterly Review, Image Journal, and Modern Poetry in Translation. He lives in Detroit.

Sámal Soll is a Faroese writer and translator. His first short story collection titled Glasbúrið was published in 2015. He has an MA degree in English Language and Literature from Aalborg University in Denmark and has just completed a degree in Faroese Language at the Faroese University in the Faroe Islands. He is currently working on a translation of Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time. You can read more about his work here.

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