Niels Hav

Danish poet Niels Hav, seen here at the University of Calgary with Priscila Uppal, has a new book out with Bookthug, translated by Patrick Friesen and P.K. Brask . One of the great potentials of festivals the size of WordFest is the attendance of people such as Hav, and in this case even greater since the book has crossed over into the Canadian literary landscape and will, in some senses, remain here.

I first encountered Hav at Wordfeast in Calgary and then in his after dinner pipe smoking ritual. There is something very old world and still about him, concise and optimistic. And of course, what a romantic! No wonder Patrick Friesen, one of the most romantic poets writing in Canada, loves him:

I prefer writing
with a used pen found in the street
or with a promotional pen, gladly one from the electricians

What an antidote to the incessant commercialism we endure.

Problems have a disagreeable tendency
to become personal

These poems are at once personal, but very external, not the myopic personalism we get in so much “romantic” or “lyric” verse that mourns a simpler time. These are poems written by a man who walks his daughter to school every morning, and won’t travel much until she is old enough not to need him daily. A man who gets out of his head, who gets out of his self. I wonder what our literary landscape would look like if translation was part of the dominant poetic discourse? If we Canadians could get out of self?

Bravo to Jay Millar for publishing this book. Canadian poetry can stand up in the world. It’s high time we let the world in, and got the word out. We’ll all benefit.

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