Eight Danish-Language Poets: Thomas Boberg, Lars Emil Foder, Niels Hav, Guðrið Helmsdal, Marianne Larsen, Nina Malinovski, Peter Poulsen, and Kim Simonsen

Eight Danish-Language Poets: Thomas Boberg, Lars Emil Foder, Niels Hav, Guðrið Helmsdal, Marianne Larsen, Nina Malinovski, Peter Poulsen, and Kim Simonsen

Translated by: Per Brask, Vibeke Eskesen, Patrick Friesen, Niels Hav, Thomas Kennedy, Carl King, Anne Kierkegaard, Pejk Malinovski, Alan C. Reese, Jennifer Russell, Kim Simonsen, Sophia Hersi Smith, Heather Spears, Randi Ward, and Peter Sean Woltemade

Introduction

Welcome to the twenty-sixth issue of the Poetry Translations, and the twenty-third devoted to poems written in a single, featured language, accompanied by their English renditions. This time, Loch Raven Review is showcasing eight Danish-language poets and fourteen translators. While some of the original poems have been published before, their English translations, with one exception, are published here for the very first time.

Danish is the official language in Denmark and the second official spoken language of the Faroe Islands and Greenland. It is one of the three main Scandinavian languages. The next Poetry Translations issues will feature poets writing in other Nordic languages.

As always, I have aimed for diversity and inclusiveness, both in regard to the style of the poems, as well as the place of birth, residence, age, gender, and life trajectory of their creators. Niels Hav was the first Danish poet with whom I had the pleasure to communicate, and he suggested others. Four Denmark-based poets accepted my invitation. Another one was recommended.

Each of the poems featured here has its own profound wisdom to bring to bear on how we live in the present. Hav’s poem, “Does it Happen that Somebody Refuses?”, which addresses ongoing immigration crises around the world, originally written for the Danish newspaper Politiken, was published in several languages before its appearance in English in this anthology. Presently, faced with the invasion of Ukraine and the escalating refugee crisis in Europe, the poem has gained a new urgency and poignancy.

Randi Ward has introduced us to the Danish-language work of two poets from the Faroe Islands whose writing in Faroese will appear in the Nordic sequel. She asked Simonsen how he chooses the language in which to write. In his words, whether he writes in Faroese or English or Danish is not such a “black-and-white issue.”

Living and writing in two languages myself, I’m always curious about living in two or more cultures at once, the one that has shaped us and the one that surrounds us at a given moment. I am happy to have encountered this group of creators, each quite unique. Bringing together a community of poets and translators in the pages of Loch Raven Review for all to peruse and enjoy continues to be my mission.

Danuta E. Kosk-Kosicka
Loch Raven Review, Translations Editor

.

Thomas Boberg
translated by Peter Sean Woltemade

When I was two years old

When I was two years old,
the painter, my father, ran
to the hills
like a bounty hunter chasing the Indian.

In the deep land, all the mountains were red.

The longer my father stayed away,
the greater the gap
between what I knew and did not know.

A void as vast as America.

In the deep land, flowers fell
like answers out of sacks
borne by unicorns on twisted paths
into the most distant corners of the picture
over which the painter sat bent.

When the sun came up,
my father pulled the blinds down.


Da jeg var to år

Da jeg var to år
rejste maleren, min far
over alle bjerge
som en dusørjæger i sporet af indianeren.

I det dybe land var alle bjerge røde.

Jo længere min far blev væk
jo større afstanden
mellem det jeg vidste og ikke vidste.

Et tomrum på størrelse med Amerika.

I det dybe land faldt blomster
som svar ud af sække
båret af enhjørninger på snoede stier
ind i de fjerneste afkroge af billedet
som maleren sad bojet over.

Når solen stod op
trak min far persiennerne ned.


When I was a child, I built

When I was a child, I built
aircraft carriers, bombers.

Stuka, Spitfire, B-52. I
invented victories and defeats.

Changed families, schools, was
left, left people, understood that I

wanted to get out, wanted to get home, wanted to get away.
I looked for my reflection in girls and

boys without a future. I
ran around in chaos, sought out

human deserts, dumb
dreams. People and

visions swarmed into
and out of my skull as in a

train station the moment before
the world ends. A quivering

open hand someone destroys
with boiling oil. In

the morning, when the sun returned,
I looked for signs of

change. There were times
when I would have given

more than a little to be another.
If you refuse to see that violence

comes from within, you’re a destroyer
yourself, she said, and she left.


Som barn byggede jeg

Som barn byggede jeg
hangarskibe, bombemaskiner

Stuka, Spitfire, B52. Jeg
opfandt sejre og nederlag.

Skiftede familie, skole, blev
forladt, forlod, forstod at jeg

ville ud, ville hjem, ville væk.
Jeg spejlede mig i piger og

drenge uden fremtid. Jeg
løb rundt i kaos, opsøgte

menneskeørkener, dumme
drømme. Personer og

forestillinger myldrede ind
og ud af kraniet som på en

banegård øjeblikket før
verden skrider. En sitrende

åben hånd nogen destruerer
med kogende olie. Om

morgenen når solen kom igen
kiggede jeg efter tegn på

forandring. Der var tidspunkter
hvor jeg ville have givet ikke

så lidt for at være en anden.
Den som ikke vil se at vold

kommer indefra, ødelægger
selv, sagde hun og gik.


Every afternoon, I was down at Ulrik’s place

Every afternoon, I was down at Ulrik’s place.

Sometimes I forgot
that I was playing at something in which I was only pretending to believe.

That I was involving Ulrik in a false game.

Later, through the door, I heard Ulrik’s stepfather beating his mother.

She had long red hair.

One day Ulrik returned and beat up his stepfather.
Ulrik himself went to prison for assault.

The carpet in the living room is dark brown and thick.

The long red hair.

The cars with which we play on the carpet next to the chest of drawers.

My other self

stands there looking down at us while we play.


Hver eftermiddag var jeg nede hos Ulrik

Hver eftermiddag var jeg nede hos Ulrik.

Indimellem glemte jeg
at jeg legede noget som jeg kun foregav at tro på.

At jeg involverede Ulrik i en skinleg.

Senere hørte jeg gennem døren stedfaren tæske Ulriks mor.

Hun havde langt rødt hår.

En dag vendte Ulrik tilbage og smadrede sin stedfar.
Ulrik selv røg ind for vold.

Gulvtæppet i stuen er mørkebrunt og tykt.

Det lange røde hår.

Bilerne vi leger med på gulvtæppet ved kommoden.

Mit andet jeg

står der og kigger ned på os mens vi leger.

.

Lars Emil Foder
Translated by Anne Kierkegaard

The Famous Sisyphus

The famous Sisyphus, who was sentenced by the gods
to forever roll a stone larger than himself up a mountain
again and again as punishment for trying to cheat death,
is by now in excellent shape: killer abs, giant biceps,
incredible thigh muscles, and a back that is a mountainous
landscape itself. You can follow him on Instagram.


Den berømte Sisyfos

Den berømte Sisyfos, der af guderne blev idømt den
straf for evigt at rulle en sten større end ham selv op ad
et bjerg igen og igen fordi han forsøgte at snyde døden,
er efterhånden kommet i enormt god form: Killer abs,
kæmpe biceps, utrolige lårmuskler og en ryg der er et
bjerglandskab i sig selv. Du kan følge ham på Instagram.


Kingdom

In the backyard two surveillance cameras have begun to
stare intently at each other. At first glance it
looks like love and dizzying infinity, but it’s not: no playful nods
of the camera box, no entwined cables, no signs of
flirtation. It’s a starring contest of life and death to
decide who’s monitoring whom. The air quivers.
Anytime now one of them will drop its gaze and
renounce seeing. And the champion will lift its gaze
and keep vigil over its kingdom of bike racks, toy
shovels, and waste containers for paper, cardboard, and
municipal solid waste.


Kongedømme

I baggården er to overvågningskameraer begyndt at
stirre ufravendt på hinanden. Ved første øjekast kan
det ligne forelskelse og svimlende uendelighed, men er
det ikke: ingen kokette nik med kamerakassen, ingen
sammenflettede kabler, ingen tegn på flirt. Det er en
stirrekonkurrence på liv og død der skal afgøre hvem
der overvåger hvem. Luften dirrer. Når som helst vil
én af dem slå blikket ned og give afkald på at se. Og
sejrherren vil løfte sit blik og våge over sit kongedømme
af cykelstativer, legetøjsskovle og affaldscontainere til
papir, pap og dagrenovation.


The Sentimental Oak Tree

An old oak walks into a bar
and orders a rain shower. ‘We’ve unfortunately
run dry,’ explains the waiter,
‘but maybe I can tempt you with a Swedish
forest lake where a young couple is skinny dipping?’
‘Are they in love?’ asks the oak.
‘Hard to say.’ The waiter studies the naked people.
‘She’s in love, I think. But he
just got out of a long relationship and
is still bitter.’
‘Then I must ask you to be generous with
the moonlight.’
‘You have a sweet tooth, perhaps? Shouldn’t I
add a drop of nightingale then?’
‘Sounds splendid! But make sure that it’s the
nightingale from the south of Jutland,
who encourages lovemaking, and not
the boring one from Lolland
who wants them to go home, get some sleep and get
up early.’


Det sentimentale egetræ

Et gammelt egetræ går ind på en bar
og bestiller et regnvejr. ”Vi er desværre
løbet tør,” forklarer tjeneren,
”men måske kan jeg friste med en svensk
skovsø hvor et ungt par nøgenbader?”
”Er de forelskede?” spørger egetræet.
”Svært at sige.” Tjeneren tager de nøgne
mennesker i betragtning.
”Hun er forelsket, tror jeg. Men han er
lige kommet ud af et langt forhold og er
stadig bitter.”
”Så må jeg bede Dem være gavmild med
månelyset.”
”De har måske en sød tand? Skal jeg så
ikke give den en sjat nattergal?
”Mægtig gerne! Hvis De sørger for at det er den
sønderjyske nattergal der opfordrer
til elskov, og ikke den kedelige fra Lolland
der vil have dem til at gå hjem i seng og stå
tidligt op.

.

Niels Hav
Translated by Per Brask and Alan C. Reese

Does it Happen that Somebody Refuses?

Does it happen that police officers refuse
to participate? That they refuse to transport people
from the Processing Center in the middle of the night?
Refuse to strap down a frightened boy
forcing him onto a plane?
That they remember Abolfazl, who died in Kabul
or the Somali, who disappeared
after being sent back to Mogadishu?
Does it happen that police refuse to destroy
families and drag away crying women and children?

The Senator has a career.
The Congressman has a career.
The CEO has a salary and a career.

But does it happen that a subordinate refuses?
That a department head in the Immigration Service
says Stop, and refuses to sign deportation orders?
That a lawyer suddenly refuses to prosecute?

Does it happen that employees in the Immigration Service
cry in their sleep? Does it happen that the Attorney General
vomits in shame? Does it happen that the Senator
suddenly regrets and calls his children
sobbing into the phone?
Does it happen that somebody refuses?


Sker det at nogen siger fra?

Sker det at politibetjente nægter
at medvirke? At de nægter at afhente
folk i asylcenteret midt om natten?
At de nægter at fiksere en bange dreng
og tvinge ham ombord i et fly?
At de husker Abolfazl, der døde i Kabul
eller den somaliske mand som forsvandt
efter hjemsendelse til Mogadishu?
Sker det at politifolk nægter at ødelægge
familier og slæbe rundt på grædende
kvinder og børn?

Ministeren har sin karriere.
Departementschefen har sin karriere.
Kontorchefen har sin løn og karrieren.

Men sker det, at en underordnet siger fra?
At en afdelingsleder i Udlændingestyrelsen
siger stop og nægter at lægge navn til?
At en fuldmægtig pludselig siger fra?

Sker det at ansatte i Udlændingestyrelsen
græder i søvne? Sker det at departementschefen
brækker sig af skam? Sker det at ministeren
pludselig fortryder og ringer til sine børn
og hulker i telefonen?
Sker det at nogen siger fra?

Translated by Per K. Brask and Patrick Friesen

The Marrow

False pride collapses sooner or later.
Reality seems in its structure to be governed by reason.
Even despots and empires grind to an end; not
Either murderers or violent political systems
Do last forever; then the regime falls apart.
Only invincible power is the marrow which every
Morning lifts us all out of sleep with joy and hope.

Translating poet’s mind:

I constructed this poem based on support from Per K. Brask and Patrick Friesen.
Per, Patrick and I are friends; they have been translating my works for 30 years.
I wanted to create an acrostic poem with this message: FREEDOM.
This poem may be considered unique among the translations,
translated from snippets and phrases in my head.

Translated by Heather Spears, Alan C. Reese, and Niels Hav

Who I Am for?
A Manifesto

I am for those who spark with life,
who flee outside for a smoke
while the boss hands out awards.
Who just shrugs off the cold during the applause.
Him who cleans up after and arranges the chairs.

I do not agree with the chairman of the board.
A CEO gives me the cold shivers.
Don’t these people have any self-respect?

The woman who bakes cookies for the homeless.
I am all for ordinary decency.
The man who gets up in the dead of night
to bike around delivering newspapers
while fools and stragglers piss in his bag
and call him Paki.

People who cry in their sleep from lack
of the vitamins found only in love.
I’m for the woman collecting bottles,
who goes through other peoples’ trash
to give her granddaughter a trip to Rome.
The man who crosses the street to help
a dazed boy fallen too early out of his nest.

I am all for kindness.
For him who hides his poems
in the tool chest in his garage.
The failures – they are the most mysterious.
The man who sweeps his sidewalk and then a neighbor’s.
Old people who lie dying alone in the hospitals.

I am all for him who’s misunderstood
every time he opens his mouth. The dumb poets,
they walk around mumbling to themselves, 
while they get some work done and take care of a family.
Her who is always teased or bullied.

Him who can’t manage to maneuver his wheelchair,
and the bus driver who gets up and gives him a hand.
I am for people who sing in traffic.
The guy making a fool of himself.
People who kick ass.

I am not for gang-related stockbrokers,
people who think they are the queen of heaven.
Arrogant sneers.
The popes blocking people’s bank accounts.
The atmosphere in the courtroom.

I am all for courtesy, for bursting into tears
in the morning at Walmart, common hysteria,
care of pets, bewitching smiles in rush hour.

He who spends seven years building a gazebo
and then ends up smashing it to pieces
in an existential rage.
It’s him I am for!


Hvem jeg holder med
Et manifest

Jeg holder af folk med spræl i –
dem der står udenfor og ryger,
mens præsidenten deler medaljer ud;
de nøjes med at skutte sig under klapsalverne.

Ham der vasker gulvet og sætter stolene på plads.
Jeg holder ikke med formanden,
en generalsekretær giver mig myrekryb,
har de folk ingen selvrespekt?

Hende der bager småkager til de hjemløse.
Jeg er tilhænger af almindelig anstændighed.
Ham der står op midt om natten for at cykle
ud med aviserne, mens tosserne pisser i hans taske
og kalder ham perker.

Folk der græder i søvne om natten af mangel
på vitaminer, der kun findes i kærlighed.
Jeg holder med hende, der samler flasker
og roder i skraldespande for at give sit barnebarn
en rejse til Rom.
Ham der krydser gaden for at hjælpe en fortumlet
dreng, som er faldet for tidligt ud af reden.

Jeg er tilhænger af venlighed.
Jeg holder med ham, der gemmer sine digte
sammen med værktøjet ude i garagen.
De mislykkede er de mest mærkelige.
Ham der fejer fortovet også hos naboen.
De gamle der ligger og dør helt alene på hospitalerne.

Jeg holder med ham, der bliver misforstået
hver gang han åbner munden. De stumme digtere,
som nøjes med at gå og mumle for sig selv,
mens de passer et arbejde og sørger for familien.
Hende de andre gør nar ad.
Ham der ikke kan finde ud af at manøvrere sin kørestol,
og buschaufføren der rejser sig for at give en hånd.
Dem der synger i trafikken. Ham der gør sig til grin.
Folk der letter røven.

Jeg bryder mig ikke om banderelaterede børsspekulanter,
folk der tror at de er Karen Blixen. Små nedladende smil.
Ham der spærrer andre folks bankkonti.
Atmosfæren i retssalen.

Jeg er tilhænger af høflighed, grådanfald
om formiddagen i Fakta, almindelig hysteri,
omsorg for kæledyr, og forheksede smil i trafikken.
Ham der bruger syv år på at bygge et lysthus
og slutter af med at smadre det i raseri.
Det er ham jeg holder med.

.

Guðrið Helmsdal
Translated by Randi Ward

Sunset

Bells toll for the sinking sun
hemorrhaging
between houses
behind the black trees of autumn


Solnedgang

Nu ringes solen ned
den forbløder
mellem husene
bag efterårssorte træer


Tryst

Your hand sought mine
without hesitation
our meeting was silent
but in the dark hollow
of our palms
was the distant music
of rolling waves


Møde

Din hånd uden tøven
søgte min
vort møde var tyst
men i håndfladers
mørke hulhed
sang det
som konkyliets fjerne brusen


A Touch of Eternity
    (at the Open Air Museum)

On a tuft of grass
deep in the past
sinking away
feeling the sun’s burning kiss
transform thought’s 
rippling field
into a shaded path
of eternal peace.


Et strejf af tidløshed
    (på Frilandsmuseet)

På en tue af græs
langt inde i fortiden
at synke bort
at føle solens brændende kys
forvandle tankens
bølgende mark
til en skyggefuld sti
af tidløs fred.

.

Marianne Larsen
Translated by Jennifer Russell and Sophia Hersi Smith

Poems from Ved Skrivebordet (At the Desk)

what is it
that is longing
opulent in disposable weather

full of horses?

*
what is it
that is never
and where was it she put that poem
she wrote asleep in her dream last night?

.


hvad er det der
er er længsel
overdådigt i engangsvejr

fuld af heste?

*
hvad er det
der er aldrig
og hvor er det nu hun lagde det digt
hun skrev i søvne i drømmen i nat?

.


she lives out the choice between taking on her nudity
or taking it off

counting or concealing
the freckles on her skin

*
one midnight she laid back her head
and quivered in the whole night sky

with her face as a trampoline

.


hun udlever valget mellem at tagen nøgenheden på sig
eller tage den af

tælle eller oversminke
hudens fregner

*
en midnat lagde hun nakken tilbage
og sitrede hele stjernehimlen til sig

med ansigtet som trampolin

.


she sentence-rubs her way through notebooks
with alternating pens and inks

sentences inks pens
each have their sound and speed across the page

*
she opens the aged oak´s shadow in the courtyard
outside the house where she lives

stands up and walks back and forth
as far as the tree´s aura extends

.


hun sætningeglider sig gennem kladdehæfter
med skiftende fyldepenne og blæk

sætninger blæk fyldepenne
har hver deres lyd og fart hen over papiret

*
hun åbner det ældede egetræs skygge i gårdhaven
uden for hvor hun bor

rejser sig og går frem og tilbage
så langt træets aura når

.

Nina Malinovski
translated by Carl King

Perhaps the two trains
travelling towards each other
at high speed
on the same track
will not meet after all
The homeless person
will perhaps after all
eventually
find some diamond jewellery
in the refuse container
Perhaps the child
still crying will awake
and someone will comfort it
and explain
that the world will last forever
and is a dream
Sooner or later
perhaps the hunter
will be hit after all
and as he
sinks to his knees
the deer will leap
its most graceful leap
And perhaps the two people
who for so many years
have secretly followed
each other´s movements
will meet in the end after all
Perhaps the good guy will not die
in the end at all
The peach stone
thrown onto the beach
will perhaps one day sprout
and become a tree
And the big pig´s head
in the butcher´s window
with the offended
upturned gaze
will perhaps after all be united
with its carcass
(now on its way at high speed
to the meat market at the edge of town)
Perhaps nothing
has happened yet –


Måske vil de to tog
der med høj hastighed
nu nærmer sig hinanden
på det samme spor
alligevel ikke mødes
Den hjemløse
vil måske alligevel
langt om længe
finde diamantsmykket
i affaldscontaineren
Før eller siden
skal jægeren måske
trods alt blive ramt
og mens han synker i knæ
vil hjorten springe
sit smukkeste spring
Og måske vil de to
der i så mange år
hemmeligt har fulgt
hinandens bevægelser
alligevel mødes til sidst
Måske dør den gode
slet ikke i slutningen
Ferskenstenen
smidt på stranden
vil måske spire en dag
og blive et træ
Og det store grisehoved
i slagterens vindue
med det fornærmede
himmelvendte blik
vil måske alligevel forenes
med sin krop
(som nu i stor fart
er på vej til kødhallerne
i byens udkant)
Måske er ingenting
sket endnu –

Translated by Pejk Malinovski

One should have listened to him.
He was an oceanographer
he stated the obvious.
That for the ocean all ships
are alike, for instance.
And that the water sooner
or later will fill all cavities
like a restless lover.
Shortly after his disappearance
they found the ores
then the boat itself.
The ocean changes color
all the time. It is in us
and among us, and it always
finds itself in the end.
He left us with the Study
of the Obvious, the hardest of all.


Man burde 
have lyttet til ham.
Han var oceanograf.
Han fortalte de ting, alle ved.
For eksempel at for havet
er alle skibe ens.
Og at vandet før eller siden
vil fylde alle hulrum
som en utålmodig elsker.
Kort efter hans forsvinden
fandt man først årerne
og så selve båden.
Havet skifter farve hele tiden.
Det er i os og mellem os
og det finder altid
sig selv til sidst.
Han lod os tilbage med studiet
af det selvfølgelige,
det sværeste af alt.

translated by Thomas Kennedy

We drove too fast
through Germany
You kissed me
in France
and gave me a flower
Through Spain
we sweat
my love
and in Morocco
I painted
my nails red
Then we turned home
didn´t we?


Vi kørte for stærkt
gennem Tyskland
Du kyssede mig
i Frankrig
og gav mig en blomst
Spanien igennem
svedte vi
min elskede
og i Marokko
malede jeg vist
mine negle røde
Så tog vi hjem
ikke?

.

Peter Poulsen
Translated by Vibeke Eskesen

If I Were Hamlet

If I were Hamlet,
I´d buy flowers for Ophelia, English winegums,
earphones, toothpicks, champagne –
I´d invite her on a trip to Florence or Rome.
If I were Hamlet
I´d give her a cage full of bleeping zebra finches
                a pair of figure-skates
                a permanent pass on the Sweden ferries.

If I were Hamlet,
I´d concentrate on my love life
instead of brooding on the familiar;
I´d divide up Kronborg into owner-occupied flats
move into a house in Fiolgade
– I might buy a water-bed –

If I were Hamlet
I´d forget all my gloomy speculations
and be something more than I am
instead of just thinking about it
and making long speeches about it.
              I´d not interfere with my mother´s sex-life
If I were Hamlet,
I would face that the old man is dead,
instead of wandering about in black nights looking for ghosts
with nothing but revenge on their minds.

If I were Hamlet
I would let Polonius stand behind the curtain
as long as he felt like it:
the addle-pated old fogey –
I would have refused to travel anywhere
with two such ridiculous characters as Goldilocks and Rosycheeks
or whatever their names are –

If I were Hamlet
I would go on the town with Horatio
drink draft beer with Frank Jæger,
throw dice with sailors in harbor dives
chat up Swedish birds
have my arm tattooed:
                                                     Ophelia I love you
it would say,
beneath a flaming heart –

If I were Hamlet.


Hvis jeg var Hamlet

Hvis jeg var Hamlet
ville jeg købe blomster til Ophelia, engelsk vingummi,
høretelefoner,
              tandstikker, champagne –
jeg ville invitere hende på rejse
                                                     til Firenze eller Rom.

Hvis jeg var Hamlet,
ville jeg forære hende et bur fuldt af bippende zebrafinker,
      et par hvide kunstløberskøjter,
      et partoutkort til Sverigesbådene.

Hvis jeg var Hamlet,
ville jeg koncentrere mig om mit kærlighedsliv
i stedet for at ruge over det familiære;
                                                         jeg ville udstykke Kronborg
i ejerlejligheder,
flytte ind i et hus i Fiolgade
         – måske jeg ville købe en vandseng –

Hvis jeg var Hamlet,
ville jeg glemme alle dystre spekulationer
                                                og være noget mere, end jeg er,
i stedet for bare at tænke på det
og holde lange foredrag om det.
                                           Jeg ville ikke blande mig i min mors sexualliv,
hvis jeg var Hamlet.
Jeg ville se i øjnene, at den gamle er død,
ikke vade rundt i sorte nætter efter genfærd,
som ikke har andet end hævn på hjerte.

Hvis jeg var Hamlet,
ville jeg lade Polonius stå bag gardinet,
så længe han overhovedet gad:
herregud, en senil olding –
jeg ville have nægtet at rejse nogetsteds hen
med to så latterlige typer som Gyldenspjæt og Rosenkål
eller hvad det nu er, de hedder –

Hvis jeg var Hamlet,
ville jeg gå i byen med Horatio,
drikke fadøl med Frank Jæger,
rafle med søfolk i havneknejperne,
falde i med svenske damer,
lade mig tatovere på armen:
                                                    Ophelia, I Love You,
skulle der stå,
under et brændende hjerte –

hvis jeg var Hamlet.


A Hard Year
            For Denmark’s Statistics

I´ve been unhappy 11,2 times in the past year
and happy 8,1.
3,7 times I’ve been unfaithful to my wife
and have been deceived 5,2.
I´ve stolen 12 bank notes and 0 coins
and been robbed of 13½.
I’ve married 0,13 times, have been separated 0,10
and divorced 0,75.
I´ve become the father of 0,18 children
been run down by 0,1437 carrier cycles,
have run up bills a similar number of times.
I´ve collided with 8,4 cars, 3,2 motorcycles,
half a train and 0,0 handcars.
I’ve flown 8 times
and fallen down with 1,6 planes.
I’ve shot 0,07 pheasants, 0 parrots, 0 presidents.
I’ve been in prison 3,9 days,
hence 0,2 to sober up.
4,7 times I’ve been to Sweden
and have brought 1,4 packets of cigarettes and 2,1
pounds of coffee back home.
I´ve seen 6,7 movies, 3,2 plays
I´ve emptied 1 ¼ bottles of whisky
and died 1 ½ times.
It has been a hard year,
if I may say so.


Et hårdt år
   tilegnet Danmarks Statistik

Jeg har været ulykkelig 11,3 gange i året, der gik, og lykkelig 8,1.
3,7 gange har jeg bedraget min hustru
og er blevet bedraget 5,2.
Jeg har stjålet 12,60 kroner og nul øre
og er blevet bestjålet for 13½.
Jeg har giftet mig 0,13 gange, er blevet separeret 0,10
og skilt 0,75 gange.
Jeg er blevet far til 0,18 børn,
kørt ned af 0, 1437 budcykler (uden lad),
kørt op et lignende antal gange.
eg har kollideret med 8,4 biler,
3,2 motorcykler
½ S-tog
og 0,00 dræsiner.
Jeg har fløjet 8 gange
og er faldet ned med 1,6 fly,
jeg har skudt 0,07 fasaner, 0 papegøjer, 0 præsidenter,
jeg har siddet i fængsel 3,9 dage
– heraf 0,2 i detention –
4,7 gange har jeg været i Malmö
og haft 1,4 pakker cigaretter og 2,1 pund kaffe med mig hjem.
Jeg har st 6,7 film,
3,2 teaterstykker,
jeg har drukket 1.1/4 flaske whisky
og er død halvanden gang.
Det har været et hårdt år,
hvis I vil høre min mening.


Five Roses

The five roses in this vase are as different
as the five roses in this vase
and so alike as the five roses in this vase.
To describe only one single rose in all aspects
is like filling a wire basket with sand,
it requires great patience, strong belief.


Fem roser

De fem roser i denne vase er så forskellige
som de fem roser i denne vase
og så ens som de fem roser i denne vase.
Blot at beskrive en enkelt rose i alle aspekter
er som at fylde en trådkurv med sand.
Det kræver stor tålmodighed, stærk tro.

.

Kim Simonsen
Translated by Kim Simonsen

Three Poems

My father died today.
He spent his life sailing
the oceans of the world.
The biological composition of seawater
shares surprising similarities with the blood in my veins;
they are both filled with viruses and bacteria.
Up from the sea you have come,
back to the sea you shall return
the priests should have said.


I dag døde min far,
han brugte sit liv på at sejle
på alle verdenshavene.
Den biologiske sammensætning af havvand
har overraskende ligheder med blodet i min krop;
begge er fyldt med vira og bakterier.
Op af havet er du kommet,
tilbage til havet skal du vende,
skulle præsterne sige.

.


The waves ravage the sandy beach.
Tonight, they will tear it apart,
break it down with a will to set everything in motion:
the small stones and the black cliffs
still whisper of slowly thawed Ice Ages.
I am looking at photos from my childhood
in my mother’s dozens of albums.
I find only one photo where my father
has his arms wrapped around me.


Bølgerne hærger sandstranden.
I aften vil de rive den fra hinanden,
bryde den ned som en vilje til at sætte alt i gang,
de små sten og de sorte klipper,
hvisker stadig om langsomt optøede istider.
Jeg ser på billeder fra min barndom,
men finder kun et, hvor min far
holder om mig
i min mors mere end hundrede fotoalbums.

.


Everything echoes your death,
the low-hanging sun
makes shadows appear as a myriad
of fleeting shapes. The distances
in this landscape make me want to read
the beach as a series of signs,
to read the sand and formations on the beach as a story:
the kind about a past
and a future
that changes us.
Like how you
went ahead and died.


Alt runger af din død,
en lavthængende sol
får skyggerne til at dukke op
i et utal af flygtige former. Afstandene
i dette landskab giver mig lyst til at læse
stranden som tegn,
sandet og formationrne
som stranden består af som en historie.
Den slags om en fortid
og en fremtid
det ændrer os.
Som at du skulle
gå hen og dø.

.

© Thomas Boberg, Lars Emil Foder, Niels Hav, Guðrið Helmsdal, Marianne Larsen, Nina Malinovski, Peter Poulsen, Kim Simonsen, Per Brask, Vibeke Eskesen, Patrick Friesen, Niels Hav, Thomas Kennedy, Carl King, Anne Kierkegaard, Pejk Malinovski, Alan C. Reese, Jennifer Russell, Sophia Hersi Smith, Heather Spears, Randi Ward, and Peter Sean Woltemade

Poets

Thomas Boberg has published numerous volumes of poetry as well as novels and a volume of short stories and also four volumes of travel memoirs. His most recent prose book is the 2019 “travel novel” Africana. Formerly a long-term expatriate based first in Barcelona, Spain, and later in Lima, Peru, Boberg, lives now on the small Danish island of Fejø and in Copenhagen. The original Danish-language versions of the three poems presented here appeared in his book Forberedelse til livet (Preparation for Life), published by Gyldendal in 2021.

Lars Emil Foder is a Danish poet and singer-songwriter living in Copenhagen. His debut was the cross-artistic book and music album Natatlas (Night Atlas, 2013) with poems, songs and graphic art. His poetry and short prose collection Fabelagtigheder (Fabulosities) appeared in 2018. A collection based on his three years of poetic weather observations is forthcoming in 2022. He has received several writing grants from the Danish Arts Foundation. He is also one of the founders of the small press festival Lille Bogdag (Small Book Day) and co-founder of the communal online bookstore for small press, Mikrofest.dk.

Niels Hav is a Danish poet, the author of seven collections of poetry and three books of short fiction. His books are translated into many languages, in English he has Moments of Happiness from Anvil Press in Vancouver and We Are Here, published in Toronto. He has travelled widely in Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America. His most recent book, ‘Øjeblikke af lykke’ / ‘Moments of Happiness’ was published 2021.

Guðrið Helmsdal was born in Tórshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands, in 1941. Between the ages of 12-26, she lived in Denmark. Her poems first appeared in Oyggjaskeggi, a Copenhagen-based Faroese magazine, in 1958. She became the first Faroese woman to publish a volume of poetry written in the Faroese language when Lýtt lot appeared in 1963, signaling a modernist breakthrough in Faroese literature. When Helmsdal received the M.A. Jacobsen Literature Award in 1974, the committee praised her for “blazing a trail for women’s literature in the Faroe Islands.” 

Marianne Larsen is, first and foremost, a lyric poet. She has written several volumes of poetry, including Den morgen jeg tilfældigvis ikke var et insekt i september and Ved Skrivebordet (At the Desk), with drawings by the Danish artist Lene Adler Petersen, where the poems presented here have appeared. Her books have been published in England, the United States, Sweden, Bosnia, Turkey and Australia. Recognized with many awards and prizes, she has traveled widely throughout Europe, as well as in China and Australia. She lives in Copenhagen.

Nina Malinovski is a Danish poet, playwright, and novelist. Her poetry has been translated into Arabic, Dutch, Spanish, Polish, and Turkish, among others. She has taught Creative Writing at several art schools in Nordic countries, as well as in Egypt and Syria. She studied scriptwriting at The Danish Film School in 1988 and has written scripts for radio, theatre and film. 

Peter Poulsen, born in Copenhagen, lived in Brazil from 1969-71, and in 1973 obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Portuguese from the University of Copenhagen. His first collection of poems Udskrifter was published in 1966. He has published more than 30 collections of poetry, 7 novels, short stories, and children’s books, most recently 99 poems (2020) and Bad Dreams (2021). In 1983, Poulsen received the Danish Arts Foundation’s Honorary Award. He is highly regarded for his translations of among others, Gottfried Benn (German), Charles Baudelaire (French), Fernando Pessoa (Portuguese) Jorge Luis Borges (Argentinian) and J. G. Rosa (Brazil).

Kim Simonsen is a Faroese writer from the village of Strendur on Eysturoy. For many years he lived in Denmark. He completed his PhD in 2012 at the University of Roskilde and has authored 7 books as well as numerous essays and academic articles. He is the founder and managing editor of Forlagið Eksil, a Faroese press that has published over 20 titles. In 2014, Simonsen won the M.A. Jacobsen Literature Award for his poetry collection Hvat hjálpir einum menniskja at vakna ein morgun hesumegin hetta áratúsundið.

Translators

Per Brask is a retired professor living in Winnipeg, the author of Above Palm Canyon and The Tzaddik and other poems. He has published poetry, stories, drama, translations, interviews and essays in a wide variety of journals and books.

Vibeke Eskesen is a translator of novels from English into Danish and Swedish since 1987. She studied in Clinton, MO, USA, obtained a Teaching Degree in English and History in 1966, in Herning, Denmark.  She worked as a journalist at the Danish Teachers Association’s Magazine in 1987-1991, and was Head of Skolen på la Cours Vej, Frederiksberg, from 1991 to 2006.

Patrick Friesen is a Canadian author known for his poetry and stage plays. Friesen won the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award for his work on Blasphemer’s Wheel, and he was runner up in Milton Acorn’s People’s Poetry Awards.

Niels Hav is a Danish poet, the author of seven collections of poetry and three books of short fiction.

Carl King is a Danish singer, songwriter, poet and translator. Born in Beckenham, UK, he has lived permanently in Denmark since 1977 and became a Danish citizen in 1983. He has released two albums of his own songs, and has translated poetry, prose and non-fiction from Danish into English.

Pejk Rasmus Nymarsk Malinovski is a Danish poet and translator. He graduated from The Danish Academy of Creative Writing in 1998. He has translated into Danish works of authors Kenneth Koch, Anne Carson, John Ashbery, Kenneth Goldsmith and Frank O’Hara. In addition to his literary career, he is a radio producer.

Thomas E. Kennedy is an American fiction writer, essayist, and translator from Danish. He is the author of more than 30 books, including novels, story and essay collections, literary criticism and translations. 

Anne Kierkegaard writes in Danish and English. Her work has been published in Bluehouse Journal, Slagtryk, Reflex Fiction, OrangeApplePress. She holds an M. Litt. in Creative Writing from University of Glasgow. She now lives in Berlin with her partner and children, but grew up in the periphery of Copenhagen.

Alan C. Reese is the author of the chapbook Reports from Shadowland. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Smartish Pace, Gargoyle, The Blue Mountain Review, The Baltimore Sun, Maryland Poetry Review, Potomac Review, Delaware Review, Welter, Grub Street, Attic, Bicycle Review, Danse Macabre, and the Loch Raven Review. He teaches writing at Towson University.

Jennifer Russell and Sophia Hersi Smith are translators living in Copenhagen. Their co-translation of All the Birds in the Sky by Rakel Haslund-Gjerrild was awarded the 2020 ASF Translation Prize, and their forthcoming translation of My Work by Olga Ravn will be published by Lolli Editions in 2023.

Kim Simonsen writes poetry in English, Danish, and Faroese. He has been a visiting scholar at Columbia University and Stanford University, an associate professor at The University of Bergen, and is now a member of The University of Amsterdam’s faculty. He also currently teaches creative writing courses at The University of the Faroe Islands and recently curated the Faroese art and literary festival, Always Coming Home.

Heather Spears (1934 -2021) was a Canadian writer and artist living in Denmark. She published four novels and 12 collections of poetry. She won numerous awards in Canada including The Governor-General’s Award for Poetry.

Randi Ward is a poet, translator, lyricist, and photographer from Belleville, WV. She earned her MA in Cultural Studies from the University of the Faroe Islands and has twice won the American-Scandinavian Foundation’s Nadia Christensen Prize. Her work has appeared in AsymptoteBeloit Poetry JournalWords Without BordersWorld Literature Today and has been featured on Folk Radio UK, NPR, and PBS NewsHour. She is a recipient of Shepherd University’s Appalachian Photography Award, and Cornell University Library established the Randi Ward Collection in its Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections in 2015. For more information, visit randiward.com.

Peter Sean Woltemade holds an M.A. in Scandinavian languages and literatures and a Ph.D. in German from the University of California at Berkeley. He translates from German and Swedish as well as from Danish and is the translator of twenty-two published books. His work has appeared in journals including Asymptote Journal, B O D Y, Columbia Journal, Exchanges, Mayday Magazine, Storm Cellar, The Brooklyn Rail, and The Literary Review. He lives in the Østerbro district of Copenhagen.

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