Sunday 30 November 2014

A poem from the collection 'Galgenfrist' by the Danish poet Ivan Malinowski


But after the fire
one could almost
spell one’s way to the grass’s veins
the mayfly’s track
the cobweb

so rich a destruction
so good a hatred

(there they sit in their nests
of chewed paper
death does not understand them
shame comes and has lost
its simplest metre)

yes I know it
the cry in the street
hunger’s spurts of flame
in leap on leap
against these walls

this horrible world
now finally so beautiful so pure

in the hot ashes of your poems.

Thursday 27 November 2014

One of 193 poems about one magnolia tree in 'Heartland' by Klaus Høeck

     the magnolia tree
is motionless more now in
     the heart of winter

     than it was before no
longer rustles with leaves of tin
     i have to speak for it

out there where the words
     turn on the border
between language and tree

     in there where
the poem turns upside down
     or inside out

Monday 24 November 2014

Anonymous Swedish medieval ballad

The power of grief

Little Kerstin and her mother laid gold on the bier,
– who breaks off leaves from a lily-tree –
little Kerstin from his grave mourned her true love so dear.
– Then all your days shall you rejoice.

With fingers so small on the door he did knock:
‘Arise, little Kerstin, and undo the lock!’

‘To hold a tryst here did I no one invite,
And to no one my door will I open at night.’

‘Arise, little Kerstin, the lock now undo!
for I’m the young man that you once loved so true.’

As quick as she could did the maid now arise
and opened the lock on her door in a trice.

On a chest of red gold she prepared him a seat
and in finest clear wine did she wash both his feet.

Then into her bed did the both of them creep,
they talked through the night, there was no time for sleep.

‘The cocks I can hear are beginning to crow,
no longer in homes may the dead tarry now.’

The young maid arose and her shoes she put on,
she went through the wood where her young man was gone.

And when at the churchyard he stopped and did stay,
his fair blond hair then started fading away.

‘Oh look, lovely maid, how the moon’s end is near!’
At which did the young man so fast disappear.

Then did the maid sit herself down on his tomb:
‘I’ll stay here till for me the Lord God shall come!’

To this could the young man be just heard to say:
‘Little Kerstin, please heed me, return home I pray!’

For each single tear that you happen you shed,
my tomb will start filling with blood that’s bright red.

Each moment however your heart gladness knows
– who breaks off leaves from a lily-tree –
shall my tomb fill with petals that come from the rose.’
– Then all your days shall you rejoice.

An Anna Enquist poem


Grass for fatigued feet, sky made for licking,
water – what swims and, chittering, tumbles along
observing children’s book rules. Paradise.

They sigh in satisfaction over the grill, lounge
lazily around the music tent, dance in short trousers
by the drums. Riding stable, tennis court.

Behind the highest wall lurk the cracked up,
the legless. They quietly glide to their garden
on caster beds and wheelchairs. The goal for today

was an extra step, was an extra ounce. Now the struggle
for bodily control falters, now those still with use
of an arm shakingly lift a mug with its straw

for a sip. In their silence the park rises up,
inescapable: cartwheels, roller skates, dogs,
a ball. They, in their war chariots, bow their heads.

They listen numbly to a song that’s now alien:
running feet, a horse rearing in its box.

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