Great Poetry Circle

Great Poetry Circle

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Selection of Great Poetry and some from Tommy Stroller - choose your category - and see my other sites -


Great Poetry EuropeanPosted by Graham Thompson Thu, July 12, 2018 06:13:58

Winter Solstice

The midwinter sun fell so low

that you could see

under all the gates of the world

The sawmill over the valley drew to a halt

like the tearing of

the brittle wallpaper in a childhood room

I entered the pine forest

like a person I have known

and could just as easily forget

A falling raindrop lit up the dark

and burnt a hole in the pine-needle carpet

sounding like a footfall in the sacristy

just before a baptism


love affairs, over so long ago:

sometimes you meet them in the street

sometimes you meets them in dreams,

when you meet them in the street, it looks like a dream

when you meet them in a dream, it looks like the streets

streets, where half the houses stand empty

because you don't remember whose faces appear

in the dark behind the window-panes

Power Cut


under me

over me

around me


railway lines


between points

at the ready

trains stand still

people stand still

the blood stands still

will we make it?

trapped in metal

death lurks in the switches

can we get it going

with a move of the hand?

does it want in that case

to get back at us

as a complete


of broken connections

Since Yesterday

I have become old since yesterday

and my room will no longer

let me go. The worn furniture

and things we collected together

in common, torment me suddenly

like razor-blades. Little hooks

poisoned by September's light

simply bind me tighter

if I turn after you

or try to free myself

When a person dies

When a person dies

their surroundings remain:

The mountains in the distance

the houses of the district

and the road, as on a Sunday,

that goes over a wooden bridge

just before it leads out of town.

And the spring sunshine

peeping out in the afternoon

reaches a shelf with books

and magazines, which no doubt

were once new.

It's not strange at all.

But all the same, it has

often surprised me.

When we leave one another

When we leave one another, at the same time we leave

all of the places we've been together:

That deserted suburb with the houses blackened by smoke

where we lived for a month, nocturnal cities

whose name we have forgotten, or stinking Asiatic hotels

where we now and then woke in the mid-day heat

with a feeling of having slept a thousand and one years.

And all those small hard to reach mountain chapels

along the way between Athens and Delphi

where the oil-lamps burn through the summer nights

these we leave at the same time we leave one another.

All translated from the Danish by Tommy Stroller & Anna Birkbøll Jensen February 2018

Henrik Norbrandt was born in 1945 and is one of the best of modern Danish poets, with a very European, and even Mediterranean outlook in his poems, totally different from other Scandinavian writers. He spent most of his life since the late 1960s in the south of Europe, and Turkey - a country he fell in love with early in his career and made his home until very recently. He has written a great travel book on his journeys in Turkey, which as far as I know has not been translated into English, but it should be as it compares well with the great travel writing of people such as Chatwin, and certainly Durell or Theroux. But it is more down to earth, closer to the people, and his descriptions of nature rivals D.H. Lawrence in poetic detail.

His poetry is always highly personal, unlike most of the British tradition, he lets you see the world, especially the Turkish and Greek world, through his own eyes. It is again very un-English and Mediterranean in its unashamed romanticism, but there is always an underlying Danish coolness and irony. I hesitate to speak of forbears, but it can be said that he is close to both the American beat poets, and at the same time Eliot and Auden. Eliot in that he uses poetry to hold the world at a certain ironic distance, Auden because he too is concerned with human morality, particularly in relation to his love affairs, of which he has had many. He is also influenced by the Swedish writer Gunnar Ekelöf, but I think his strongest influence goes back to the Greek and Latin-based language poets, such as Cavafy, Machado, Kantzanzakis and Seferis. From them he gets that very personal feeling in his poetry, even when he is describing landscape and travels. Thus he is a true hybrid of Northern and Southern European poetry, and should be much more widely recognised. He is unfortunate in that he writes in mostly Danish, and also Turkish, two languages almost untranslatable to other European languages. However, luckily for me, his language is not complex, nor is it full of difficult metaphors, Dylanesque (Thomas,not Bob) sound poetry or imagery - it is closest in style to the direct speech of Lawrence's poetry, and never as flowery as the Latins. So it is not too difficult to translate.

Because of illness Norbrandt returned to Denmark quite recently, but has written in various newspapers that it was because of poor health, and he finds Denmark of the post-millenium to be utterly different from his childhood, and even more alien to his spirit. The poems above are all taken from his 1998 "Drømmebroen" collection, which roughly translates as "Dream bridges". This is because they are often stream of consciousness productions with an underlying dreamlike quality. But they are also as real and acute in their perceptions as a Wordsworth. Enjoy! Perhaps more Danish poetry will be coming to yet another blog of Great Poetry, mostly from poets unrecognised in the English-speaking world.