Rune Christiansen was born in Bergen in western Norway in 1963 and made his debut with the poetry collection Hvor toget forlater havet (Where the train leaves the sea) as early as 1986. He is an associate professor and responsible for writer education at the University College of Telemark. Alongside his work as an author and educator, he has, for many years, been the editor for the publishing house Oktober’s series for the translation of contemporary lyric poetry, which publishes entire poetry collections rather than selected works.
Christiansen has himself retranslated Alain Bosquet, Eugenio Montale, Frank Kuppner and Edmond Jabès, and he has a broad and thorough knowledge of what is happening and has happened within the international field of lyric poetry.
In his debut collection Hvor toget forlater havet, French poet René Char was explicitly referred to, and in both form and poetic imagery this book took substantial inspiration from surrealism. That the poems seemed fresh may be thanks, in part, to postmodernism having opened the way for a reuse of earlier phrases of modernism, and in particular, surrealism. Most important, however, was that Christiansen had his own voice and a sure sense of timing. His poems emerged as clear examples of a developing poetic talent.
Christiansen’s subsequent collections showed the emergence of a more independent poetic language. This was especially clear in I dødvanne (In a Backwater; 1989), in which the explosive contrasts within the traditional, surrealistic language of images were largely replaced by a focus on close, concrete observation, usually of another person. This observation opens the way for reflections about and experience of the world as something spatial, limited and limiting.
Motormelkeveien (The Motor Milky Way; 1994) was a central transitional book within the writer’s oeuvre. It was the last collection of Christiansen’s to contain conventionally presented poetry. Yet the phenomenological, which came to play such a large role later in his work, is here, ready and waiting. With delicate and exacting precision, the poems portray situations in which one becomes aware of the world as a being and as a place where what we observe emerges and slips away again into a background situated beyond us.
In the next three collections of poetry, Christiansen’s poetry reached completely new heights. He published rhythmic prose poetry, and the rectangular blocks of text corresponded perfectly to the phenomenological theme of limited geographical plains from which something definite emerges and disappears. This form also allowed Christiansen the syntactic space needed to create more elaborate and nuanced images.
From 1990, Christiansen had been alternating between writing collections of poetry and novels. Then, in 2003, at the height of his powers as a lyric poet, and to the great despair of many, he declared that he was finished with writing poetry and would focus entirely on the novel. So far, he has written six highly acclaimed novels, the most notable being Fraværet av musikk (The Absence of Music; 2007).
In 2011, a new collection, Jeg har tenkt meg til de elyseiske sletter. Dikt 2002–2011 (I Have Planned to Go to the Elysian Fields: Poetry 2002–2011) was published to much celebration. The book includes a profusion of varying text forms: prose poetry, conventional lyric poetry, aphorisms and a great deal more extraordinary juxtapositions of text. While the collections of prose poetry a decade earlier were perfectly crafted and tended to be the type of text Roland Barthes calls ‘work’ which gives ‘pleasure’ to the reader, the latest poems are more open, closer to what Barthes calls texts which gives ‘ecstatic bliss’ when one is actively a part of them, when one ‘writes’ them.
Hvor toget forlater havet, Dreyer, Oslo, 1986
Sanger fra måneraketten, Dreyer, Oslo, 1987
I dødvanne, Forlaget Oktober, Oslo, 1989
Skilpaddedøgn, Forlaget Oktober, Oslo, 1991
En følsom tid, Forlaget Oktober, Oslo, 1993:
Motormelkeveien, Forlaget Oktober, Oslo, 1994
AntiCamera, Forlaget Oktober, Oslo, 1996
Lett ferd: Dikt i utvalg, Forlaget Oktober, Oslo, 1998
Etter alltid, Forlaget Oktober, Oslo, 1999
Om trær som vokser seg skakke i trange skyggefulle hager, men som likevel (eller nettopp derfor) gjør inntrykk og som man husker livet ut, Forlaget Oktober, Oslo, 2002
Samlede dikt, Forlaget Oktober, Oslo, 2004
Jeg har tenkt meg til de elysiske sletter, Forlaget Oktober, Oslo, 2011
Hvalene i Glasgow, Forlaget Oktober, Oslo, 1990
Dypt mørke, Forlaget Oktober, Oslo, 1992
Steve McQueen er død, Forlaget Oktober, Oslo, 1997
På ditt aller vakreste, Forlaget Oktober, Oslo, 2000
Om morgenen den 25. februar 1848 (essay) Forlaget Oktober, Oslo, 2002
Intimiteten, Forlaget Oktober, Oslo, 2003
Fraværet av musikk, Forlaget Oktober, Oslo, 2007
Krysantemum, Forlaget Oktober, Oslo, 2009