Le Confident

Ideas tête-à-tête

In the Head of the Poet – 1 – Per Højholt


How do you read poetry? What does it give you, what do you learn from poets? In what ways does it change the way you see things?

I’ve always liked poetry as a means to broaden my understanding. First I adored the conscious musicality, then the artisan-like crafted wording, and then the deviousness of some poets, notably those of the 19th century in Europe.

Thinking about poetry is like thinking about music, it follows essentially the same rules. There exist some enlightening books about this, for me the study by de la Motte. That’s one way to see it. Another way is more effective in changing your personality.

When you read something, your immagination is always guided by words. Each word, I believe, has an immage, an emotion, another word – in short, some sort of context attached to it. Depending on your experience, you will read more and more intensively, associating more and more things with a given text, although receiving less from the present author.

A poet has the unique possibility to lead you in a world of words, where your primary associations don’t work right away. Without multiple readings and some calm minutes of reflexion, you won’t understand him or her, and if you are used, addicted to the notion of understanding what you do and what you receive, you are forced to take from the author, what you need for deciphering the given text.

Here lies the magic of poetry, its undiminished value. There are words you’ve never used, pictures you’ve never seen, connexions you’ve never thought of. But in order to understand, you learn these new things in confrontation with the text. By this, immaginations appear before your inner eye and some of them will even trigger emotional states. Sometimes, it might even be as if you lived in fact through these scenarios, they become as real, as memories of physical events. This may depend only on the seriousness you concede to the poetic output.

For me, all experiences boil down to a couple of images in my mind. That’s the reason why I started to collect these essences of other writers. They are like centerpoints defining many concentric cercles – the creative mind, evolving into ever larger understanding, but revolving around one central idea. In reality, a mind might consist of several such centerpoints and cercles, but it is surely limited.

Per Højholt:

Let me share some of these ideas. The first poet I want to present is Per Højholt, recently passed away danish citizen. The „head of the poet“ is the title of a collection of poems, including a CD. In the german edition, you have the danish and german versions of the poems and danish readings by the author. Under each chapter of the book, run enormous foot-notes, which connect the individual poems in a way and give an essayistic insight into the author’s meta-poetry. He was very much post-modern in this respect. I had the described difficulties in understanding first, but his imagery is intriguing, so that one engages eagerly in the process of comprehension. Some examples:

  • Paul A. Nielsen, Contortionist“: He wants to become a gordic knot, but fears to end up as an ordinary knot, losing his chance to ever evolve into something better. (the anguish of the creator?)

  • Spleen“ – We’re baffled by the stars, but the stars are terribly bored looking at us, we’re not of their kind.

  • The person on a mountaintop“ – Someone is looking for the perfect poem, incontestable like a street, that is better than birds, lizards and iridescent flies, but all he finds is the warbling of larchs and pigeon cooing. (self irony based on poetic traditions?)

  • About as many larchs“: the poetic ego counts the birds, find trees to be like gas filled ballons, that resemble trees, and he goes on finding expressionist metaphors, ever counting the larks until the postman arives. (the poet has no problems finding his expressions, but it seems worthless to do so)

Under quotation marks are my translations of titles, followed by a summery and my interpretation in brackets.

If you want to find out more, here some links:


List of publications

Der Kopf des Poeten – German Review

Link to his reading of “about as many larches”  – Så go så mange larker


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This entry was posted on June 10, 2012 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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