Poetry is such a futile activity. I’m sure most poets know the feeling. We run around in the streets tormented by astounding metaphors. Who care if we find the right word or not? Searching for truth is like hunting in the dark, and no matter how we twist and turn the ass is at the back. Words on paper make no big difference anywhere in cosmos – not like cleaning a toilet or building a house.
My spouse and I spent a month in China with music and poetry – in modern cities like Guangzhou, Ningbo, Shanghai and Beijing – a wild mixture of new and old. We met a lot of inspiring and interesting people. In China there is such a strong longing to get involved with the rest of the world and show what they can do and it is the same when it comes to art and poetry. And they are good – it is no wonder the Chinese are proud of their nation, although there still are serious problems with basic human rights.
While there, surrounded by the booming building industry, I was thinking of a fragment by Li Bai (701-762). More than one thousand years ago he said: “Perfect poems are the only buildings there always will be standing. Where are the proud palaces, once towering here? When the power is in me my brush shakes five holy mountains. What does it concern me all the things people want of glory, power, richness and honour – what is that against writing poetry?” No one can say that better today.
Poetry is important, even when it stands whispering at the doorstep. Literature has nothing to do with power, art will always be in opposition and critical of authority. Poetry is an intimate talk with the single reader. Let’s remember the words of Li Bai and be proud of our profession: poetry has a duty.
To wake up at night with a brain filled with insane
speculations is not so special,
most people have to face a monster. Some have to
take meds to bear the pain,
to survive a loss or slip out of a depression.
They feel totally abandoned and alone
with the ogres – that’s how it is.
The devil walks about like a roaring lion.
Others make do with whatever dope is on the market
in retail: tobacco, coffee, alcohol, orgies in food
or in asceticism. Some succeed in disappearing
into work, or some other splendid passion.
We build small empires in the hope that they’ll serve
as fixtures for our homeless spirits on the day
we leave our bodies and step into eternity.
Everyone wants to leave their tracks – as a thank-you
that we were granted permission to step on the earth and enjoy
it’s beauty; granted permission to love and hate
to the normal extent in a body with a normal address.
The task is for us to decipher our common experiences;
the horror and the misery that surround us, cling
to our clothes and seep into all of our bodies.
To notice what’s going on, and if possible
to say things as they are.
Translation: P.K. Brask & Patrick Friesen
You can spend an entire life
in the company of words
not ever finding
the right one.
Just like a wretched fish
wrapped in Hungarian newspapers.
For one thing it is dead,
for another it doesn’t understand
Niels Hav is a full time poet and short story writer living in Copenhagen with awards from The Danish Arts Council. In English he has We Are Here, published by Book Thug, and poetry and fiction in numerous magazines. In his native Danish the author of six collections of poetry and three books of short fiction. His books have been translated into several languages such as English, Arabic, Turkish, Dutch, Farsi and Chinese.
Raised on a farm in western Denmark, Niels Hav today resides in the most colourful and multiethnic part of the capital. He has travelled widely in Europe, Asia, North and South America.
In an interview Niels Hav recently says:
“I’m trapped in the Latin alphabet. Even if I communicate in English, I’m still isolated from half of the world. How many alphabets are there on our planet? Nobody knows for sure, but alone Chinese, Hindi, Bengali and other Asian alphabets are used by more than one third of the planet’s population. And then there is the Arabic alphabet used by a billion. Many Arab and Chinese writers have the advantage over European colleagues, they are able to handle two alphabets. I wish my ignorance wasn’t so extensive.”
“…Niels Hav’s We Are Here, … brings to us a selection from the works of one of Denmark’s most talented living poets and is all the more welcome for that reason….”
- Frank Hugus, The Literary Review
Şî’ri bo trisnokekan nîye (poetry and essays in Kurdish translation), Ktebxanai Andesha, Sulaymaniyah, Irak 2016.
Al-Rooh Tarqos Fee Mahdiha, Jordanian Writers Association, Amman, Jordan 2015.
Zanhaa dar kopenhag, Botimar Publishing, Tehran 2015.
Kopenhag Kadinlari, Yasakmeyve, Turkey 2013.
Grondstof. Poetry translated by Jan Baptist, Holland 2012.
Udate žene u Kopenhagenu, Bosnia 2012.
De Iraanse zomer. Short stories translated by Jan Baptist, Holland 2011.
Ḥı̄na aṣı̄ru aʻmá. Poetry, Arab Scientific Publishers, Beirut 2010.
Als ik blind word, Holland 2010
De gifte koner i København. Poetry – Jorinde & Joringel, 2009.
We Are Here. Poetry translated by Patrick Friesen & P.K. Brask, Toronto 2006.
U Odbranu Pesnika. Poetry translated by Tatjana Simonović & Milena Rudež, Belgrade 2008.
Grundstof. Poetry – Gyldendal, 2004.
Nenadeina Sreka. Poetry translated by Zoja Drunova. Spektar Press, Macedonia1997.
Når jeg bliver blind. Poetry – Gyldendal, 1995.
God’s blue Morris. Poetry translated by Patrick Friesen & P.K. Brask, Crane Editions, 1993.
Den iranske sommer. Short stories – Gyldendal, 1990.
Ildfuglen, okay. Poetry – Hekla, 1987.
Sjælens Geografi. Poetry – Hekla, 1984.
Øjeblikket er en åbning. Short stories – Hekla, 1983.
Glæden sidder i kroppen. Poetry – Jorinde & Joringel, 1982
Afmægtighed forbudt. Short stories – Hekla, 1981.