Alphabet (poetry collection)

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Inger Christensen - Alphabet.jpeg
Author Inger Christensen
Original title Alfabet
Translator Susanna Nied
Country Denmark
Language Danish
Publisher Lyrikbogklubben Borgen, Gyldendal, New Directions
Publication date
Published in English
Pages 77
ISBN 081121477X

Alphabet is one of the most well-known poems[1] of Inger Christensen,[2] who was broadly considered to be Denmark's most prominent poet.[3] The poem was originally published in 1981 in Danish as alfabet. An English language translation by Susanna Nied won the American-Scandinavian PEN Translation Prize in 1982.[4]


Alphabet is a systematic poem, in which each of the fourteen sections[3] of the poem is tied to a letter of the alphabet and the number of lines found in each section is dictated by the Fibonacci sequence.[5] (The first section, "A", has one line. The last section, "N", has 600.)


Alphabet deals with themes of nuclear war and ecological devastation.[5][6]

As the poem progresses and each section lengthens, an increasing number of elements related to destruction, death, and ecological devastation are introduced.[6]


The book was reviewed in Publishers Weekly in 2001: "As used here with controlled repetitions, the [Fibonacci] sequence gives the whole an almost medieval sense of restriction[.] Abstracted cold war fears and post-'70s ecological concern and alienation give way to litanies of real world outrages ... which culminate in a post-nuclear holocaust nightmare, with birds and children somehow having survived in caves. The scenario may seem dated, but the threats remain very real, and Christensen's poetic appeal for sanity and humanity remains an abstracted call to action."[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Williamson, Marcus (2 February 2009). "Inger Christensen". The Independent. Retrieved 13 February 2013. (subscription required (help)). 
  2. ^ "LCCN Permalink: Alphabet". Library of Congress. Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Fox, Margalit (12 January 2009). "Inger Christensen, Scandinavian Poet, Is Dead at 73". New York Times. Archived from the original on December 9, 2013. Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  4. ^ Cushing, Iris. "Susanna Nied on Translating alphabet by Inger Christensen (Part One)". Circumference Magazine. Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Whitener, Brian (22 September 2001). "Alphabet. (Brief Reviews)". Chicago Review. Retrieved 13 February 2013. (subscription required (help)). 
  6. ^ a b Commire, Anne; Klezmer, Deborah, eds. (1999). Women in world history a biographical encyclopedia. Waterford, Conn.: Yorkin Publications. ISBN 978-1-4144-1267-2. (subscription required (help)). 
  7. ^ Staff writer (2001-05-14). "Fiction Review: Alphabet by Inger Christensen". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 2012-02-13.