Meg Matich is the recipient of a 2015 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant for Cold Moons, a collection of sparse, minimalistic ecopoetry by Icelandic poet Magnús Sigurðsson that deals with nature’s resilience to the passage of time. Read Matich’s essay on translating Cold Moons here.

Evolution (1)

Flight of the dwarf wasp,

one millimeter
350 times
per second

in a photograph.

After one million
millennia of steadily



⨳ ⨳ 



The valley
is called Eternal Valley;

my house
on the riverbank,

I have no claim
to either.

I watch
the seedling

after day,

in the fertile fields.


⨳ ⨳ 



Now the poems
seem to come
one after the other.

That can only mean one thing:

has arrived.


⨳ ⨳ 




We are the thousand suns
we have forgotten.


to water
and soil.


I strip
every day,

a maple
stripping off
papery bark.


⨳ ⨳ 


In the Apricot Orchard

Ten years have passed
since our
last meeting.

And now I see:
all the night’s darkness
cannot extinguish

the sparks of fireflies.


Evolution (1) was first published in Words Without Borders.

Poetry was first published in Catch & Release.

This piece is part of PEN’s 2015 PEN/Heim Translation Series, which features excerpts and essays from recipients of this year’s PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants.

This translation is available for publication. Publishers and editors who wish to express interest in this project are invited to contact PEN Literary Awards Coordinator Arielle Anema ([email protected]) or Translation Fund Advisory Board Chair Michael F. Moore ([email protected]) for the translator’s contact information.

Magnús Sigurðsson (b. 1984) is an Icelandic poet and translator. Sigurðsson’s first book of poems, Fiðrildi, mynta og spörfuglar Lesbíu (2008), received the Tómas Guðmundsson Poetry Prize. In 2013, Sigurðsson received the prestigious Jón úr Vör Poetry Prize. Sigurðsson’s translations include a collection of poems by the Norwegian Tor Ulven, Steingerð vængjapör (2012), and a Spanish translation from the Icelandic, together with Laía Argüelles Folch, of Ingibjörg Haraldsdóttir’s seminal book of poems, La cabeza de la mujer (2011). Sigurðsson’s recently published a book-length translation of the work of Adelaide Crapsey, the unheralded pioneer of modern verse in America. Most recently, Sigurðsson released a fourth book of poems, Krummafótur.

Meg Matich is a poet and translator, and a recent graduate of Columbia’s MFA program. Her translations have appeared in or are forthcoming from Exchanges, Words Without Borders, Absinthe, Asymptote, and others. She was a finalist for the 2015 ALTA fellowship, Iowa Review Poetry Prize, and others, and has received grants and fellowships from Columbia University, the DAAD, and the Banff Centre.