Friday 30 August 2013

Poem from 'Palimpsest' (2008) by the Danish writer Klaus Høeck


carved out of pali
sander mahogany or
teak which were the pre

ferred types of wood back
then – long live the twenties which
by the way i know

absolutely bug
ger all about but i re
ly on art which in

brief glimpses shows us
much more of the truth than his
tory ever does

To see Archipenko's sculpture, go to here.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Evert Taube's morning song at Baggensfjärden

Morning song at Baggensfjärden

Now leaves are rustling, branches shake
Now comes a breeze, now comes a breeze!
We catch between bent trees a glimpse of Baggensfjärden
Now rocks are creaking, rushes stretched
In morning mist, in morning mist
So pristine, dredged in dew, aroused from worldly slumber

Its arms by ridge on ridge,
Its lap by sea on sea
Now skywards open –
Sinister and dark is still the wave’s deep grave
The surface gleams though
In sun’s bright joyous light
The sea-gull swims in its snow-white garb
Towards the dusky shore

But past the darkened ridge,
Now dredged in gold, in lightened space
A host of clouds is hustled by unknown wind
To place unknown:
It’s daybreak

To see a photograph of Baggensfjärden, go to here.
There is a video of Sven-Bertil Taube singing the song on the Internet.
But try his earlier recorded version on Sven-Bertil Taube sjunger Evert Taube.

Poem from Klaus Høeck's collection Palimpsest


throughout my entire
production runs a ribbon
of incomprehen

sibility (like
a milky way) a ribbon
of paradoxes

a thin möbius
strip that binds words and senten
ces and images

together into
the whole that makes the poems

The title refers to a painting by Yves Tanguy. To see the painting, go to here

Dèr Mouw on 'la bête d'amour'

How tender a young girl! So sweetly shy,
so childlike! And twice graceful, since she’s fair.
Her mind’s kept healthy too – she reads with care,
her mother says, the good books I supply.

She blushes at a gentleman’s salute,
and fears his terrier’s antics aren’t quite sound
with her Alsatian, two legs off the ground,
oh dear me, no! what an unseemly brute!

Louys displeases her, she finds far finer
‘der herrlichste von Allen’, and H. Heine.

She hates twice over every pert cocotte,
adores Don Juan and laughs at Don Quijote:

apparent Artemis, there lurks for sure
yearning, demonic, la bête d’amour.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Dèr Mouw on the subject of pain

God’s said to make the soul divine through pain?
None but a fool or mocker might so think:
who uses night to bleach what’s black as ink,
the impure with sticky pitch makes white again?

No, pain ennobles no one: pain turns hard.
A stinking dung-fly I became that feeds
on filth and muck, that mockingly misreads,
defiles what’s finest in the human heart.

My yearning eyes hunt misery as food,
prey hungrily on every face they see

where painful laugh is grimly etched for good
and I think eagerly: ‘Not only me!’

And, flesh-fly now, pain pierces me, for I
could just as well have been a butterfly.

Sunday 25 August 2013

Klaus Høeck: 'past' from 'LIVE'


                  no – that’s not correct
i must take back what i have
                  said gunderslev skov
                  is even more beau
tiful is the most beauti
                  ful in the country
                  here where a ship of
stone has stranded in a huge
                  foundering between
                  two eternities
washed up in the surf of net
                  tles under an oak

                  please stop oh wheel at
this outcrop of the past – i
                   say to my bike which
                  i get off and then
clamber aboard the shipwreck
                  the time amongst haw
                  thorn and groundsel con
vinced of interdependence
                  via stones and years
                  connected to death
only separated by
                  a single second

                  no poem is written
on a blank sheet of paper
                  but on other writ
                  ing it partly e
rases and partly intens
                  ifies no story
                  comes solely out of
itself but from tradition –
                  i’m literally
                  standing on histor
ic ground writing on a
                  prehistoric find

KH is referring to the dolmen found in the wood at Gunderslev that was visited by N.F.S. Grundtvig in 1808. After his visit, Grundtvig wrote a poem about the dolmen. You can see how it looked in 1857 and looks now by going here.

Thursday 22 August 2013

One more from 'Live' by Klaus Høeck


                  and the stage is set
this time in gammel estrup
                  without any scen
                  ery or other
trappings just like in real
                  ity and what then
                  is the difference
nothing apart from the split
                  second that separ
                  ates art and life like
an atom of infini
                  ty in the moment

                  the stage is set once
again and there we sit down
                  in the banqueting
                  hall without full-bot
tomed wigs and renaissance
                  costumes just like an
                  attentive audi
ence that is listening a
                  cross the dark abyss
                  of the centuries
like an atom of fini
                  tude in the moment

                  the stage is set for
the third time and holberg is
                  being played as u
                  sual – only during
the intervals is it  poss
                  ible to tread these
                  boards on which the com
edy is being enact
                  ed or when it is
                  all over and there
is no longer any stage
                  that can be trodden

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Dèr Mouw - painting with words again!

Through village church’s window pane the beech
draws shadows on lit curtain’s meagre width;
next to the casing through two bright-blue slits
parallel yellow bars skim through each breach.

And on the far wall glaring sunshine lies,
sliced by thin lines to squares that brightly sprawl:
upwards round shadows creep, only to fall
quite suddenly, as if they are huge flies.

Old men and women in the paupers’ pew,
hands folded, keep the vicar well in view:
he talks of bliss that’s found in Better Lands.

In turn, through glittering holes midst beech-tree leaves
the eternal sun strews tiny golden seeds
over what now are resting, worn out hands.

The diagonal light is also a strong feature in the painting (three versions) by Charles de Groux in his ‘Le banc des pauvres’. To see a version of the work, go to here.

Monday 19 August 2013

Another poem from Klaus Høeck's 'Live'


                  i admit it it’s
completely way out to drive
                  all the way out to
                  hampen to write this
poem – but that’s what i’ve done
                  and now i’m standing
                  in a field where i’m
kicking at stones partly to
                  discourage festi
                  val poetry and
partly to pay my homage
                  to dr johnson

                  i scrutinise the
stones carefully how beauti
                  ful they really are
                  each one of them re
markable in some way or
                  other – one with a
                  medal ribbon di
agonally across its
                  surface another
                  with an axe blow from
the stone age finally i
                  pick up a flintstone

                  i let go of the
stone it falls to the ground – so
                  simple it is the
                  rest is twaddle a
load of codswallop or sim
                  ply stuff and nonsense
                  at best habit or
a matter of faith i get
                  into the car once
                  again and drive back
while you are reading this po
                  em as a fact now

(The expression 'ude i hampen' in danish means 'way out, far out, beyond credibility'. Opinions are divided as to its origin (see here). but it is a location slap bang in the middle of Jutland, and Klaus Høeck visits all sorts of places in Denmark in the course of his latest collection.)

Friday 16 August 2013

Poem by the Danish writer Christine Brahe, dated 1602

Wi saais nu i Guds urtebed,
I Guds kiere børns gaarde,
I Guds ager leggis wi hans Sæd.
Huile om vinteren hin haarde:
Naar vaaren kommer oc solen skin,
Opuoxe wi met herlighed fin,
De deilige fruct,
Til deilige fruct oc grøde.

In God’s rich soil our bed is made,
In God’s dear children’s garden,
In God’s field we his seed are laid
To rest when frosts all harden:
When spring comes and the sun does shine.
We’ll grow magnificent and fine,
The wondrous fruit,
To wondrous fruit and harvest.

Thursday 15 August 2013

From Klaus Høeck's latest collection 'Live'


                  can i have a hof?
a what? – comes a shout so panes
                  and glasses rattle
                  the inn lady looks
sharply at me – of course she
                  knows full well what a
                  hof is – but here in
nørre snede can i have
                  a beer – here in nør
                  re snede you don’t
give yourself airs – got the mes
                  sage mister smart arse

                  so do the dia
lects cross swords as in a ven
                  detta the waitress
                  answers completely
differently to what i
                  had expected ‘to
                  day’s menu meat
loaf followed by strawberries’
                  neither more nor less
                  to put it in a
nutshell take it or leave it –
                  that’s the way it is

                  not to mention the
parting short in the inn lounge
                  at nørre snede
                  i notice that the
coffee hasn’t been put on
                  the bill and draw at
                  tention to the o
mission – you don’t need to pay
                  anything for that
                  my lad – i mean that
is just bloody fantastic
                  would you credit it

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Poem by the Dutch writer Judith Herzberg



There is something of me that I am not.
To start with, while we so wondrously
lay naked there together, I resisted this:
we are not that, that is how we,
compelled by custom, present ourselves.
‘Present,’ I said, ‘in perfectly creased clothes
faultlessly ironed by servants.’
But you, with honeyed words and strokings
where I most preferred to be stroked,
could so persuade me ‘we’ll have ourselves eternalised,’
you said, ‘and later on when we no longer live
we will remain, though held apart
in each our oval painting,
eternally inseparable.
All that was over from our bed – close by
while I tried so hard to
sit still for that portait,
were the fleas, just two or three,
which beneath stiff collar and inside the dress
quite undisturbed – for I was still forbidden
to make a move – burrowed
their pillaging forays.

I put it to myself that in the light
of eternity three fleas would no longer
do much damage. But
now the two of us are long
since dead and even the oil-
portraits, hung as pendants
side by side, my husband’s oval
turned into a square and
acquired by a distant museum –
against all promises thus
cruelly separated nonetheless –
I sometimes in my memory attempt
to return to those days of posing.
What were my thoughts, how did I sit
serene like that, how, as wife of
the well-known brewer, did I stay
so cool, so noble and elevated,
how did I keep out of that portrait
what we at nightime felt together?
while even so I sat on pins
and pins what’s more that pricked.

This poem describes a picture at the Rijksmuseum. To see the portrait, go to here. 

Monday 12 August 2013

Poem by the Swedish writer
Kjell Espmark (b. 1930)

Route tournante

Cézanne has placed a surly easel
in what as yet does not exist.
He knows the geology of absence,
layer upon layer, so well that already
the naked in the canvas becomes fully authentic.

The road that winds in last year’s grass
is still only a curve in the mind,
stolen from an ancient Chinese.
It runs up into a soiled chapter
that he has scraped off with his knife –
you were never there!

Start with the shadows
and work in towards the brighter centre.
The blue-grey can tempt back a field.

Like his life this treacherous year:
the throbbing foot that refuses to heal
he may possibly have to part with.
At the same time the road that insists, once more –
what a thirst for sun!

Among the women in dark headcloths
his mother moves, bent in grief for one dead.
When the others have disappeared round the bend,
she is on an errand,
still there like a misty blue over the road.

So hard to endure any other contact –

It is colour that can make contact with the world.
He has certainly mentioned the logic. And the old woman.
But such as approximate values.
No theory can catch hold of
the raging forces within things.

Only a grip of colours
can force ‘reality’ to make a reply.

Blotch upon blotch, a stubborn scale
that lifts out a town from the town:
gables, a church tower, a possible road
and a fugue of swallows.
Each house is uninhabited: waiting
for the one with strength enough to return.
A day is a year.

Like his life –
Took decades to realise that vegetation is blue.
And now in just a few minutes he has managed
to paint the sound of bells.

The brush drops.
The canvas has forced into existence a landscape
in what simply calls itself landscape.
And the road really winds.
Every second has a moist gleam
that no one could see before.
He stands with his throbbing pain
in last year’s suddenly fresh grass.

Sunday 11 August 2013

Another butterfly/psyche poem, this time by Dèr Mouw.

through small blue holes, speckling from arching beech
falls on dead leaves to form a copper cover;
when shifting flecks, like shadows, hide each other,
they seem alive, motion contained in each.

Rustling, a butterfly comes on the scene,
flits cautiously among the lightest blotches;
alights; with wings stretched flat it watches –
four eyes stare sunwards with a peacock sheen.

Sprinkling quiet magic on the past, strange light,
deriving from a source well out of sight,
now sets ablaze its mottled glimmering.

My soul’s psyche, with youthful shimmering,
emerges from the old darkness cautiously
and moulds light to four stanzas’ symmetry.

The previous butterfly/psyche poem included on the blog, by Ida Gerhardt, can be found here

The opening four lines remind me of a poem by Stefan George, one that so far I have found completely impossible to translate. Does anyone know of an English translation?

Wir schreiten auf und ab im reichen flitter

Wir schreiten auf und ab im reichen flitter
Des buchenganges beinah bis zum tore
Und sehen aussen in dem feld vom gitter
Den mandelbaum zum zweitenmal im flore.

Wir suchen nach den schattenfreien bänken
Dort wo uns niemals fremde stimmen scheuchten ·
In träumen unsre arme sich verschränken ·
Wir laben uns am langen milden leuchten

Wir fühlen dankbar wie zu leisem brausen
Von wipfeln strahlenspuren auf uns tropfen
Und blicken nur und horchen wenn in pausen
Die reifen früchte an den boden klopfen.

And the last four lines of this poem remind me of an autumn poem by Hebbel. And so on and so forth. 

Thursday 8 August 2013

Beginning of a poem by Walter von der Vogelweide (1168-1228).
Rodin, beware!

Ich saz ûf einem steine,
und dahte ich bein mit beine,
dar ûf satzt ich den ellenbogen,
ich hete in mîne hant gesmogen
daz kinne und ein mîn wange,
dô dâhte ich mir viel ange,
wie man zer welte solte leben, [...]

I sat upon a stone,
there cross-legged thought alone,
my elbow on my thigh I rested
my chin and one cheek now both nested
within the hollow of my hand,
and deeply sought to understand
how on this earth one ought to live, [...]

Poem from Klaus Høeck's collection 'Palimpsest'


is god a cripple –
is god’s left hand an arti
ficial one he once

in a while unbuck
les and lays aside on a
fallen tree-trunk out

in the field to rest
for a bit in the midst of
his continued la

bours with creation –
does god show that much soli
darity with man?

To see the painting this poem refers to, go to here

Tuesday 6 August 2013

A honey sonnet by Dèr Mouw


I see, into a crystal-ordered whole
of liquid-golden colonnades packed tight,
– on purple heath shines August’s midday light –
an ochre honeycomb in a blue bowl.

And it’s as if small shadows half-striated
through humming, gleaming stillness leave a trace;
and it’s as if, before my mortal face,
summer stands wholly transsubstantiated.

Glacier of midday gleam, snow-clad with wax,
the silver twisting of the lamp-light glides

to fragrant vale of green-reflecting rummer
along the melting steepness of your sides.

Am I a priest? Profaner? – From sweet racks
I eat divinity of sun and summer.

Monday 5 August 2013

Dèr Mouw is always a slight misquoter: 'Anges purs! anges radieux! Portez mon âme au sein des cieux!'

it’s summer; Sunday morning. And a scene
from distant boyhood suddenly is there:
I lie in grass, rose petals everywhere
around me – yellow, pink and white in sheen;

my mother plays the piano, the last notes
of Gounod’s Faust. Its strings I sensed vibrating,
as if within me, then reverberating
all the way up my chest and to my throat.

At which I wept and wept, till mother came,
stroked and kissed me and took me in her arms,
and, happy, I gave her the fondest name. –

I see roses. I’m grey. The memory’s still
vibrating in my throat, as if I trill
the words: ‘Anges des cieux, portez mon âme’.

Friday 2 August 2013

Poem by the the Dutch writer
Menno Wigman


There comes a woman, one that’s tall and slim.
She speaks the language. Then a bed. Just right.
She fits just right. Still often needs repeating.
So often that she owns your daily bed,
and you the diary that’s inside her head.

There comes a white-coat with a rorschach test.
Who I might be. What I see in the blot.
What does that smartarse know of dirty tricks?
When I was made I wasn’t even there.

(It was a woman, one that’s tall and slim.
Nervous. Hung up. And idler than a rose.
She spoke with mud. She had to leave my life.)

I read the murder cases in the press.
I had a will. Read blots. Weigh up my skin.