poems by Niels Hav
One woman is enough
to drive a whole neighborhood crazy.
Anyway all traffic lights turned red
when you walked home from the laundromat
with your delicates.
I’d just gone inside to write
a poem in dry weather; and now I stand here
tyrannized by ambulances
and hysteria while the sky turns dark
out over the lakes. Come on!
The word war is banned in Russia,
Words like anxiety, screams and bombs
must also be banned.
The dumbest thing is to think.
The word invasion is already banned.
The army’s casualty figures don’t exist.
Crying soldiers must not be mentioned.
Corpses and smashed children are banned,
the horror in basements and metro stations.
The word death is fortunately forbidden –
death is illegal in Russia.
It’s a fatal defect of the human imagination
that we can’t empathize with the disasters of others.
We were granted this shortcoming for our psychic survival –
not for making blunted jokes about other people’s
catastrophes. Humour is a kind of self-defence
but ironic smirking is out of order
when the tanks come rolling in and flesh and blood
from human creatures drip from the trees.
Some claim that we’ haven’t the right to talk about
these things without being there ourselves
without having stood there with a torn off arm
or a smashed brain in our hands.
We already wallow in terror and cynical pornography.
Resignation is a possibility.
But we’ve no right either to neglect
the world’s evil just because we ourselves
by some fluke landed in the whitefat ghetto.
We are now almost eight billion people on this planet;
each one equipped with a unique individuality,
which deserve respect. Alone through simple wisdom,
or the physical memory of our own thin skin, we ought
to let ourselves be touched by the misfortunes of others.
Irony is an impossible escape on the day when we ourselves
are lying screaming in pain on the street or in a hospital
and all internal defenses fall apart. Then it’s for real.
You can spend an entire life in the company of words not ever finding the right one. Just like a wretched fish wrapped in Hungarian newspapers. For one thing it is dead, for another it doesn't understand Hungarian. Niels Hav is a Danish poet and short story writer with awards from The Danish Arts Council. He is the author of seven collections of poetry and three books of short fiction. His books have been translated into many languages including English, Arabic, Turkish, Dutch, Farsi, Serbian, Kurdish and Portuguese. His new English poetry collection Moments of Happiness is published by Anvil Press, Vancouver 2021. Niels Havs poems and stories have been published in a large number of magazines and newspapers in different countries of the world, including The Literary Review, Ecotone, Acumen, Exile, The Los Angeles Review, Absinthe: New European Writing, Shearsman and PRISM International. He has travelled widely and participated in numerous poetry events in Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America. He has frequently been interviewed by the media. Niels Hav was raised on a farm in western Denmark, today he resides in the most colourful and multi-ethnic part of the capital, Copenhagen. “…Niels Hav's We Are Here, ... brings to us a selection from the works of one of Denmark's most talented living poets and is all the more welcome for that reason….” - Frank Hugus, The Literary Review Bibliography Moments of Happiness, Anvil Press, Vancouver 2021. Øjeblikke af lykke. Poetry - Det Poetiske Bureaus Forlag, 2020. A alma dança em seu berço, Editora Penalux, Brasil 2018. Shpirti vallzon në djep,Shtëpia Botuese OMSCA-1, Tirana, Albania 2016. Şî'ri bo trisnokekan nîye (Kurdish translation), Ktebxanai Andesha, Sulaymaniyah, Irak 2016. Al-Rooh Tarqos Fee Mahdiha, Jordanian Writers Association, Amman, Jordan 2015. Zanʹhā dar Kupanhāk, Butimar, Tehran, Iran 2015. Kopenhag Kadinlari, Yasakmeyve, Turkey 2013. Grondstof. Poetry translated by Jan Baptist, Holland 2012. Udate žene u Kopenhagenu, Bosnia 2012. De Iraanse zomer. Short stories translated by Jan Baptist, Holland 2011. Ḥı̄na aṣı̄ru aʻmá. Poetry, Arab Scientific Publishers, Beirut 2010. Als ik blind word. Poetry, Holland 2010 De gifte koner i København. Poetry – Jorinde & Joringel, 2009. From Betroelse to confession. Poetry, Book Thug, Toronto 2009. We Are Here. Poetry translated by Patrick Friesen & P.K. Brask, Toronto 2006. U Odbranu Pesnika. Poetry, Belgrade 2008. Grundstof. Poetry - Gyldendal, 2004. Nenadeina Sreka. Poetry, Skopje, Macedonia1997. Når jeg bliver blind. Poetry - Gyldendal, 1995. God's blue Morris. Poetry, Crane Editions, Canada 1993. Den iranske sommer. Short stories - Gyldendal, 1990. Ildfuglen, okay. Poetry - Hekla, 1987. Sjælens Geografi. Poetry - Hekla, 1984. Øjeblikket er en åbning. Short stories - Hekla, 1983. Glæden sidder i kroppen. Poetry – Jorinde & Joringel, 1982 Afmægtighed forbudt. Short stories - Hekla, 1981.
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