Monday, 20 December 2021 17:28

Keeping an eye on those in power

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Keeping an eye on those in power

The Poem

by Niels Hav, translated by Heather Spears

Don’t you put the poem
in a headlock – You are under arrest!

The poem won’t obey orders.

The poem doesn’t do well in isolation cells.
The poem rambles around the suburbs
rummages through other people’s trash
it packs a gun.

The poem distrusts the law and the courts,
yet trusts in a higher justice.
The poem gets into arguments with any old passers-by
barges in on the CEO
making wild accusations. Shows
no respect. Smells badly
(shit & roses).

The poem happily waits in line for a thunderstorm.
The poem spends the night in solitude
and wild ecstasy.
The poem hangs around in airports
and on board overcrowded ferries.
The poem is largely political, but hates
politics.
The poem is cantankerous,
but speaks only on rare occasions.

The poem spoils the party.
The poem is ready to take of its jacket
and meet you outside.
The poem’s got a
case of the jitters.

Keeping an eye on those in power

by Niels Hav, translated by Per Brask

When Joe Biden was inaugurated as president in USA, the poet Amanda Gorman was reading at the ceremony. The poet may take on a similar role in different cultures. But in everyday life, and most of the time, the poet is an outsider. A lonely bandit in the desert. That’s how it is in Europe, and so it is in the rest of the world.

We writers are soloists. We celebrate the same virtues as the Bedouins: perseverance and generosity. Some poets among our best colleagues know about hunger and thirst, heroic poverty and longing. There are other values than the material, and retaining this knowledge is one of poetry's tasks.

Never before in the world history have so many people been living in exile; wars, famine and climate change are driving people to flee – today we all are a kind of nomads. It is a paradox that nationalism flourishes at the same time. We are poets and reside in the literary republic. Physically we are in Shanghai, Bogota, Istanbul or Copenhagen, but poetry is our mental and spiritual homeland.

Poetry is not for wimps. The task is to keep an eye on those in power and to speak about things as they are. When unrighteousness suppress the truth, poets are the first ones to be jailed, and this is logical. But poetry is adjacent to music, and when a poem is successful, the words have a deep resonance in mind and soul. Good poetry is magical.

Poetry must be committed to life’s beauty and grandeur – and to the problems of daily life of ordinary people. To look for truth is like hunting lizards in the dark, and no matter how we twist and turn, the ass is at the back. We must be honest about our confusion. Art is in search of a deeper truth than political solutions, but still poetry always want to be a critical instance with the additional duty of telling the truth about real problems in the real world.

We are part of one and the same universal civilization, and we have one common fate no matter what alphabet we use. Let’s go for a new flowering of art and poetry in a peaceful world. Poetry could contribute to the understanding between the world's peoples and cultures, and contribute to the respect for the individual and his personal dream of a life in happiness and harmony. We all share that dream.

Read 634 times Last modified on Monday, 20 December 2021 17:42
Niels Hav

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