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Tess Lewis on Maja Haderlap in Poetry Society of America

We are thrilled to share an essay about Maja Haderlap’s work, written by Tess Lewis, the translator of Maja’s Angel of Oblivion and distant transit. Published by Poetry Society of America, the essay delves into Haderlap’s experience of living between two countries, two cultures, and two languages. Tess Lewis discusses how belonging to the borderline shaped the subjects and ideas of Maja’s writing. You can find Lewis’s essay, alongside excerpts from distant transit, here, and read some excerpts below:


Angel of Oblivion portrays family dynamics poisoned by war and torture and interwoven in it is an urgent reflection on storytelling: the narrator hopes to rid herself of the emotional burden of her past and to tell stories on behalf of those who cannot. She can only exorcise her community’s inherited trauma by recounting it and in doing so help resurrect their collective memory.


house of love

the house that shelters me breathes imperceptibly.
has a timbered roof that billows like a sail,
has an outer layer that is not rigid. you hear
me living inside it, you ask what i’m doing,
grumble when i remain silent and weep. in the house
of love, everyone builds their own little cottage,
one for themselves and another for a third.
i will no longer give in to persuasion. my ribs
have congealed into a fan vault
that barricades me in. you can hardly
detect me, i’m so distant from you.
at night, my old desire makes a racket
deep in the keel. I float inwards, where love
couples with the foreign, to the cape
of hope, my throat taut.


Maja Haderlap’s poems shed light on the richness of human experience. Hers is a poetry of transitions, charting the move from one country or language to another, from adolescence to adulthood, from trust and intimacy to distance, from rootedness to estrangement, but also from estrangement to a sense of community and home.


– Tess Lewis


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