Olga Ravn breakout debut poetry collection, Jag äter mig själv som ljung. Flicksinne, was released in Denmark 2012. One year later it was released in a Swedish translation by Jan Henrik Swahn by 10TAL Bok and made a huge impact on Swedish critics, poets and readers. In Svenska Dagbladet, the critic Josefine Holmström noted Olga Ravn’s »provocative and challenging poetry, insistent and often flatly uncomfortable.«
Her poems are characterized by being provocative and at times elusive, the reader is batted back and forth between deeper understanding and a sense of the intangible, but despite this interwovenness and willfulness, her language has something about it that makes it accessible. Praised for her playfulness, she turns words and meanings inside out. She plays around with repetitions, colours, grotesqueries and tiers this with everyday words and phrases, creating a rhythmic and pulsating reading experience which is almost physical and visceral.
Jag äter mig själv som ljung. Flicksinne is among other things about the body, how it is to be embodied. But also about the experience of becoming a body, about growing up from a girl to a woman and about the obligations and roles that this entails. About becoming sexualized and how the body of a girl is shaped in relation to a sexualized outside world.
The surgeon and anatomist Sir Astley Cooper becomes a central figure in the poems, surveying and monitoring the female bosom with his scholarly gaze. Much like Astley Cooper, Olga Ravn dissects and punctures the language and punctures from the inside out. In a distinctive and colourful manner, she makes a systematic examination of the discomfort that the sexualized gaze causes, questioning the objectification of the female anatomy.
The colours are vivid, powering the musicality in the poems. The red manifests in puberty, menstruation, fertility and the sexually mature woman and she plays with the given associations and connotations that colors have. Likewise, whiteness is put into perspective. The white and the privileged, the white and virginity, semen, milk, the girl.
Olga Ravn was educated at Forfatterskolan in Copenhagen and teaches at the writing program on Testrups Højskole. She also works as a critic for Politiken and has translated Sylva Plath’s The Bell Jar together with Mette Moestrup. She is currently finishing a novel which is planned to be released next year. Meanwhile, it is with great pleasure we are looking forward to hear her at the Stockholm International Poetry Festival – it is wonderful to experience her expressive and energizing poetry reading.