Extract 1 from Her, by Christine Kjellstrøm Melby


Her — Extract 1

the earth-leakage circuit breaker is broken
all the light bulbs no longer light
the heat pipes no longer heat
you ring the electrician who says that indeed too much current is going to earth
he disappears
the electrician replaces the entire fuse box
you open and close it
so all the current has a place to go
whilst you're in the forest
dreaming you watch that the forest burns down
all the current lies at the forest floor and sparkles
green lights up the dark
the ash leaves whirl around you


Ho — Utdrag 1

jordfeilbrytaren feilar
alle lyspærene sluttar å lyse
varmekablane sluttar å varme
du ringer elektrikar som seier at viss for mykje straum går til jord
forsvinn han
elektrikaren byter ut heile sikringsskapet
du opnar og lukkar det
så all straumen har ein stad å gå
medan du er i skogen
i draume ser du på at skogen brenn ned
all straumen ligg på skogbotnen og gneistrar
det grøne lyser i mørket
oskeblada kvervlar rundt deg


  1. The Norwegian term ("jordfeilbrytaren") for "earth-leakage circuit breaker" is more economical, translating literally to "earth-failure-breaker"; one could consider dropping "earth-leakage" in the translation to English, but it is important within the poem as a whole, with both "earth" and "leakage" being referred back to in later lines. For the same reasons, "earth-leakage circuit breaker" seems much to be preferred to other terms for the device in English, such as "residual-current device/circuit breaker".

    In English, there are two possible terms for "jord" in an electrical context, namely "earth" or "ground", but the more literal "earth" is used often in «Ho», and I feel is a much better choice poetically.

  2. In the first three lines of the poem, there is a structural aspect of repetition: "jordfeilbrytaren" and "feilar"; "lyspærene" and "å lyse"; and "varmekablane" and "å varme". In all three cases, it is happily possible to preserve this in translation: "earth-leakage circuit breaker" and "broken"; "light bulbs" and "light"; "heat pipes" and "heat". Though there are several other ways to translate "feilar", "å lyse", and "å varme", I consider the repetition to be important to the poetic feel.

  3. The expression that is used at the end of the second and third lines could more literally be rendered "have stopped lighting" and "have stopped heating"; however, the simple present tense is used in the original Norwegian, not the present perfect, and I feel that use of "no longer" instead contributes to a tone that is more faithful to the original — more energetic.

  4. In Norwegian, "du ringer elektrikar" is without an article: "you ring electrician". This construction is, of course, not possible in English; whilst translating to the indefinite ("an electrician") would work, I feel that the more colloquial "the electrician" fits the tone better.

  5. How to render the adverb "viss" is the most difficult point of the translation. The line works perfectly well without it, but it lends it a kind of colloquial emphasis ("viss" is often used as a kind of "filler word" in Norwegian). In other contexts, "certainly" or "without doubt" or similar would be typical translations, but these feel a little too strong here; "decidedly" is close in its weight of emphasis, but feels a little literary compared to the Norwegian.

    All told, I feel that "indeed" is the closest equivalent in English; it has perhaps a stronger sense of referring back to or building upon something than "viss" does in Norwegian, but this seems permissible here given that the first line of the poem introduces the theme of current leakage.

  6. In Norwegian, the same word ("straum" in Nynorsk) can be used for both "current" and "electricity", but etymologically "straum" corresponds much more closely to "current", and it feels preferable rhythmically and tonally here in all three cases of its use.

  7. Whilst "forsvinn han" ("he disappears") can of course refer to the electrician, there is also a "he" figure in «Ho» as a whole, indeed only ever addressed with a third-person pronoun; it is not impossible to read the line as instead referring to this person, especially given that the following three lines are juxtaposed rather non-linearly.

  8. In translating "medan du er", one has to choose between "while" and "whilst" and "you're" and "you are"; the choices I have made are those which I feel work best rhythmically and tonally.

  9. The expression "i draume" could be rendered "in dreams", but, as touched upon earlier, the simple present is used throughout the poem, giving it an immediacy and dynamism that is important to the tone; I feel that the gerund "dreaming" (which does not really exist as a possibility in Norwegian) better maintains this.

  10. The construction "ser du på at" is a little unusual in Norwegian, and its specific formulation was likely very deliberate; I have chosen therefore to translate it very literally to "you watch that", which necessitates "burns" later in the line, rather than a rendering along the lines of "you watch the forest burn down", which has a more passive feel.

  11. In translating "ligg på skogbotnen" I have chosen to render the preposition "på" to "at" rather than "on", which would in isolation probably be the obvious choice, as "at" feels to me more natural in the context of the line and the poem; for the same reason I have translated "skogbotnen" to "the forest floor" rather than the more literal "the forest bottom", which would definitely feel out of place tonally.

  12. It would be possible to translate "gneistrar" to "sparks" rather than "sparkles", but I prefer the latter tonally and rhythmically.

  13. The expression "det grøne" is an example of a definite adjectival construction in Norwegian in which the noun is omitted/left implicit; it does not have an exact equivalent in English, translating literally simply to "the green". One can sometimes translate this kind of construction to English by adding a generic noun of some kind, e.g. "de unge", literally "the young", can sometimes be rendered "the young ones", but here I feel that use of the indefinite (just "green") works best poetically.

    Though still close to the original, this line is the most loosely translated of those in the poem, as I have felt it necessary to prioritise the poetic feel of the line over a slightly more literal rendering: in addition to the translation of "det grøne" to "green", I have taken the liberty of translating "lyser i" to "lights up" rather than the original "shines/lights in". The verb "å lyse" can namely be translated to "to shine" or "to light"; the former would be more typical, and in particular would certainly be the better translation in this line if one wished to retain the preposition "i", but I prefer "lights" in order to echo the second line.


«Ho» (which I have translated to "Her", as I feel this is probably the dominant usage in the poem as a whole, but which can equally mean "She" or "It" — the latter possibility being an unusual aspect of Nynorsk/various Norwegian dialects generally) is a long poem written in 2021 by Christine Kjellstrøm Melby.

It is ambiguous whether the verses on individual pages of the work are intended to be interpreted as independent poems, but I feel at least that the extracts I have made can stand alone.

Extract 1 is from page 12 of my edition, the eighth page of the poem itself. It is the entirety of that page.

Translated on the 30th-31st of December 2022.

Last updated: 00:54 (GMT+1), 1st January 2023