Your poem, by Kolbein Falkeid


Your poem

has hidden itself on the far side of the moon.
And the moon, you see,
has 'captured rotation'.
Doesn't turn its back to anybody.

A fine fellow like that.


Diktet ditt

har gjemt seg på baksida av månen.
Og månen, vet du,
har bunden rotasjon.
Snur ikke ryggen til noen.

Kjekk kar sånn.


  1. More literally, "baksida" would translate to "back side", but one has to translate "rygg" to "back" later in the poem; since there is no repetition of "back" in the original, it feels important to the wordplay to avoid it in the translation. In any case, "baksida av månen" is the standard expression in Norwegian, and "the far side of the moon" would be the equivalent in English.

  2. The phrase "vet du" actually translates to "you know", but I prefer "you see" phonetically here; since it is 'just' a "filler phrase", I have therefore taken the liberty of translating to the latter.

  3. There are a few possible ways to refer to the concept of "bunden rotasjon" in English, for instance tidal locking, but "captured rotation" is closest to the Norwegian term; indeed the latter was originally probably translated from this English term.

    I feel that adding inverted commas around "captured rotation" in the translation helps make clear that this is a reference to a certain concept.

  4. It is fortunate that "turning one's back to someone" has the same double meaning in English as "snur ryggen til noen" has in Norwegian!

    How one reads the fourth line of the poem is relevant to how to translate "noen". If one heavily emphasises "noen", one must really translate to "anyone" or "anybody". If, however, one reads "ryggen til noen" with emphasis on (the first syllable of) "ryggen", which is probably the way most would at first, the weight of the line would be more faithfully preserved in the looser translation "turn its back to you".

    I feel, though, that the line works best rhythmically with "anybody"; since it is also more faithful semantically to the original, I have chosen it over "you".

  5. How to translate the final "sånn", vital to the wit of the poem, is the trickiest point, as single words such as "thus", which sometimes can be used for "sånn", do not work here. "In that way" is one possibility, but I have chosen "like that" for its greater abruptness/concision, bringing it closer to the pithiness of the original.

    Though there is no article in the original Norwegian, and it is entirely possible not to use one in the English rendering either, I feel that the weight of the translated final line is better if one includes an indefinite article at the beginning of it.


The poem is originally from «Noen skritt unna» ("Some steps away") from 1980, which can be viewed at the Norwegian National Library's site: «Diktet ditt» is on page 23 of the original text (24-25 of the online text). It also appears in the collection «De store strendenes samtale» ("The great shores' conversation"), which can be viewed at the same site: «Diktet ditt» is on page 76 of the original text (78-79 of the online text).

Translated on the 19th of May 2022.

Last updated: 23:42 (GMT+1), 5th January 2023