Friday, 21 November 2014

A personal Barnas favourite

Moving house

For months they helped me lug up stairs
years hoist through the window
and when the piano

couldn’t be squeezed in
my voice from the balcony
thundered in chords way off key

Monday, 17 November 2014

Another female poet writes about men, this time Maria Barnas (1973- )


I think of the man I was fond of.
Am I still fond of him?
How many fears does that make?

Our plates grew emptier
And at the edge lies a flower that’s been cut
out of radishes. A slight, exuberant life.

Not for consumption, he’s well aware.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Anna Bijns (1493-1575) - 'Not tied by husbands women prosper best'!


To be a woman’s fine, a man far better.
You maids, you widows keep this to the letter:
Don’t haste or fret to see yourselves soon wed.
It’s said that manless you are honour’s debtor;
If finding food and clothes though does not fetter,
Let no man master both your house and bed.
Take my advice: Be wary where you tread
It seems to me, where’er I cast my gaze,
That if a woman choose – though nobly bred
And rich in goods – to wed she all her days
Will spend short-tethered; if alone she stays
Instead both pure and chaste she’ll, I profess,
Be mistress of a life excelling praise.
With marriage I’ve no quarrel, nonetheless
Not tied by husbands women prosper best.

Maids fair of face make wives plain to behold,
Poor frumps, poor drudges; take care, young and old!
From wedlock’s hold I thus should clearly sheer.
Alas, once they are wed they’ve soon extolled
A love which they believe cannot grow cold;
This they will rue within just half a year:
The yoke of marriage makes life far too drear!
Of this all those who’ve wed are well aware!
And women make much clamour out of fear
When husbands seek distraction here and there,
Spend nights and days in inn and gambling lair;
Then wives swear that they rue their foolishness,
But friends and family can’t ease their care.
So stay on guard, and hear what I profess:
Not tied by husbands women prosper best.

The man comes home at times drunk as a lord,
Pesters his wife, exhausted by her chores;
No time to pause if she the house shall run.
And should she feel like countering his roars,
He strikes her in the face or to the floor;
That drink-logged vat’s commands she may not shun.
For all he’ll do is rant and rave at one,
So are things done; poor wife who such must bear!
And if with other women he’s begun,
What joy to rule the home when he’s not there.
You maids, you women, quench your thirst elsewhere
Ere you would hitch yourself up to distress.
Though you a view opposed to mine all share,
I simply do not care, but still profess:
Not tied by husbands women prosper best.

Unkept, a woman must man’s wealth forgo;
His will though likewise she need never know.
And freedom, I maintain, is of great worth.
Without account she’s free to come and go;
Though she must spin to earn her bread, all know
To feed one mouth it takes a lesser purse.
Not tied, she’s envied everywhere on earth,
And though a husband’s income is denied,
As mistress she is master of her hearth.
To freely move is joy none can deride.
To sleep or wake at will she may decide,
With none to chide – so stay untied, don’t rest.
Lost freedom is the worst ill ever tried.
Wives everywhere, though good blokes line your nest,
Not tied by husbands women prosper best.


Though women may have wealth none can deny,
They’re viewed as slaves by men both low and high.
Should they with fine words ply, then stop them short
And tell them to push off if they should try;
In number good men with white ravens vie.
Away from all gifts shy that they have brought,
As soon as in their mesh the woman’s caught,
Love is as nought, it’s seen repeatedly.
In marriage man’s deception’s grimly taught,
With sorrows fraught, she suffers constantly;
He squanders all her wealth, won’t let her be.
No game for free, but heavy curse no less.
Oft money rules not love when you can see
Such men run till their lungs burst out their chest.
Not tied by husbands women prosper best.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

A Hans Christian Andersen carol

Barn Jesus i en krybbe lå,
skønt Himlen var hans eje.
Hans pude her blev hø og strå,
mørkt var det om hans leje!
Men stjernen over huset stod,
og oksen kyssed barnets fod.
Halleluja! Halleluja! Barn Jesus!

Hver sorgfuld sjæl, bliv karsk og glad,
ryst af din tunge smerte,
et barn er født i Davids stad
til trøst for hvert et hjerte.
Til barnet vil vi stige ind
og blive børn i sjæl og sind.
Halleluja! Halleluja! Barn Jesus!

The Christ child in a manger lay
Though his was all creation;
His pillow was but straw and hay
And dark the crib’s location!
The star though o’er the house shone bright;
The ox the child’s foot kissed that night.
Let hallelujahs sound on high! Christ Jesus!

Be sound and joyful, soul forlorn,
Shake off pain’s tribulation,
In Bethlehem a child is born,
Each heart’s true consolation;
We to that child the path will find,
And children be in soul and mind.
Let hallelujahs sound on high! Christ Jesus!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Another poem by Maria Barnas

Der Doppelgänger

I started to read Der Doppelgänger in Paris
in a room that slightly swayed
It seemed well-known to me.

In all the streets I see a house where I can live
for I come from low-lying marshlands.
A descendant of land-seekers at sea

whalers and pirates I have a soft spot
for England an interest in France
and a preference for Russians who’ve strayed

into German. In Berlin I came across Der Doppelgänger
in a house that was just like my own.
What I had left behind in Paris

and would be able to approach from Berlin began
to thrust itself upon me in ever more concrete forms.
I let this happen for it was a bridge

that would mend loose ends in space and lacks in me.
But who says bridges have to be completed
and where are the words that I read.

Monday, 3 November 2014

A strange coincidence - 'digte' in danish. Poem by Klaus Høeck

         the danish word digte means
     both to write poems and
to caulk (i.e. is not just a chance

         homonymy) to caulk
     reality the pointing
between language and

         world digtning is
              the actual process of
     filling in holes and

cracks as when ship’s hulls
         are caulked and brushed
     with tar and pitch

Sunday, 2 November 2014

A classic J.C. Bloem poem


It’s raining and it is November:
Autumn lays siege now to the heart
That sadly, though more wont than ever,
Endures its secret pains apart.

And in the room, where resignation
Sees daily life pass as it may,
From streets that speak of desolation
A bleak light falls at close of day.

The years pass by but never alter,
The difference will soon be gone
Between dim memories that falter
And what is lived and is to come.

Lost are the ways I knew of gaining
Release from time in earlier days;
Always November, always raining,
Always this empty heart, always.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

A 30 October poem from Klaus Høeck's '1001 poems'

  hints tips and good ad
  vice to a young po
et ‘ ‘it sounds so beautiful’
  i said - ‘does lofty
  poetry but po
etry is only lofty
to the same extent as life
  is denigrated
  and debased’ - i said
‘poetry ought to be more
  like a turnip in
  its fat fertile soil’

Friday, 24 October 2014

One more Thor Sørheim poem

step by step

Step by step I distanced myself from the table lamp
which was transformed into a gleaming circle down there
in the hall, and the black patent leather shoes pointed their noses
open-mouthed towards the doormat. At the top of the stairs
I had come as far up beneath the sky
as it was possible to come. The world fell into place

on the dark ceiling in the shadow of solid tiers of joists
and bent piping, as at a museum
where all the artefacts are marked with labels
that state origin, properties and how long they
have been in use. For many a long year I collected dogmatics
in stiff archive boxes, for I had forgotten

that the world is there to be misunderstood, and that people try
as best they can to act in good doubt. I suddenly yearned
back to the smell of the socks with holes in the wardrobe,
the wet raincoats hung up to dry, the gleaming elegies
of the posters. Step by step I calmly descended
with my hand firmly gripping a perplexed banister.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Poem by the little-known Swedish writer Gunnar Mascoll Silfverstolpe (1893-1942)

End of the summer holidays

This was the time our pockets all hung low
with fall-clipped fruit now smeared with streaks of clay.
This was the time the garden candles’ glow
lit up the crayfish dish with quivering ray.
It almost felt too cold to take a swim,
and cobwebs draped themselves round scrub and fern.
When too the last hay had been taken in,
the sky was chill and clear, the wind quite stern.

These were the days when grudgingly one weighed
each hour till summer’s quota had been filled.
This was the time when every hour displayed
an inner force that was to be distilled.
And yet at times one left all play behind
sought out a hill where it was good to lie
and with a ten-year-old’s dark-musing mind
observe the swallows’ flight and clouds file by.

One evening, with the wooden houses burnished
a glowing crimson by the sun, one left –
holding the farewell gift that summer furnished,
a bag of Astrakhans, clasped to one’s chest.
One rode off to the station, tearful-eyed,
while crickets, drunk with joy, still chirped and squealed
their final summer notes on every side
from what were empty, cattle-trampled fields.