Extract 2 from Her, by Christine Kjellstrøm Melby


Her — Extract 2

you fill your coat-pockets
with bits of the forest floor
pine-cones sticks stones nuts
like a squirrel
stockpiling for the winter
it's squirrels that plant most trees
they forget where they've buried their nuts
so they're left lying
under the earth
and sprout


Ho — Utdrag 2

du fyller jakkelommene
med gjenstandar frå skogbotnen
konglar pinnar steinar nøtter
som eit ekorn
samlar saman til vinteren
det er ekorn som plantar dei fleste tre
dei gløymer kor dei har grave ned nøttene sine
så dei blir liggende
under jorda
og spire


  1. Etymologically, "jakke" would correspond to "jacket" rather than "coat", but "jakke" is used somewhat generically in Norwegian, in much the same way as "coat" is in English: the default term.

    In «Ho» as a whole, the "you" figure's coat has already been introduced, so that the definite form of "jakkelommene" ("coat-pockets") partly refers back to this. There is any case a question of whether to translate to "the coat-pockets" or "your coat-pockets" in English; the definite noun form is very flexible in Norwegian, and is often not appropriate to translate entirely literally.

    Here there is certainly, I feel, an implicit possessive in "jakkelommene", and whilst "the coat-pockets" is not impossible, "your coat-pockets" feels more natural.

  2. The noun "gjenstandar" arises as a compound which literally corresponds to something like "still-standings", without a precise counterpart in English. A possible translation of "gjenstandar frå" could be to "items from" or "things from", but "bits of" seems best poetically.

  3. The same remarks apply to the rendering of "skogbotnen" to "forest floor" here as I made in the translation of Extract 1.

  4. In translating "samlar saman", there is a choice to be made between the simple present ("stockpiles") or the present continuous ("stockpiling"). The latter allows for a reading, also possible in the original Norwegian, which refers not only to the squirrel but also to the "you"-figure, whilst "stockpiles" would only be a part of the squirrel simile. For this reason "stockpiling" seems preferable; it is also slightly more energetic, which fits well with the first line.

    The phrase "samlar saman" would literally correspond (in the present continuous) to "collecting together" or "gathering together", but has a naturality that in this context these English phrases lack. A translation to "gathering up" would be better, but still does not feel quite right.

    A possibility would be to simply translate to "gathering for (the) winter", but this does not fully reflect the nuance expressed by the inclusion of "saman" ("together" or, here, "up"). A translation to "amassing" is also a possibility, but feels a little incomplete in isolation; "stockpiling" has something of the sense of both "gathering" and "amassing", and fits well, I feel, rhythmically and tonally.

  5. The "som" in "ekorn som" could possibly translate instead to "who" or "which", but "that" feels clearly best here.

  6. In the original, one has "har grave ned", which more literally would translate to "have dug down" rather than "have buried", but the latter feels natural here.

  7. The phrase "blir liggende" would literally correspond to "be lying", which is not really possible here in English except in a dialectical or archaic context. The sense is that of "remain", which has a root in Middle and Old English corresponding to something like "be left", and thus is not all that far from "blir liggende" etymologically; "they remain" is thus certainly a possibility, but "they're left lying" feels slightly closer to the original both syntactically and poetically. A third possibility would be "they remain lying", but this feels a little clunky.


See Extract 1 for notes on the work «Ho» ("Her") from which the extract comes.

Extract 2 is from page 13 of my edition, the ninth page of the poem itself. It is almost the entirety of that page, but I have omitted the first line on the page, which makes a reference to an earlier passage in «Ho».

Translated on the 31th December 2022-1st January 2023.

Last updated: 16:37 (GMT+1), 1st January 2023