Contemporary Literary Review India | eISSN 2394-6075 | Vol 6, No 4: CLRI November 2019

Poem by Niels Hav


Women of Copenhagen

Now I have once again fallen in love

with five different women during a ride

on the number 40 bus.

How is one to gain control of one’s life

under such conditions?

One wore a fur coat, another red wellingtons.

One of them was reading a newspaper, the other Heidegger

--and the streets were flooded with rain.

At Amager Boulevard a drenched princess entered,

euphoric and furious, and I fell for her utterly.

But she jumped off at the police station

and was replaced by two sirens with flaming kerchiefs,

who spoke shrilly with each other in Pakistani

all the way to the Municipal Hospital while the bus boiled

in poetry. They were sisters and equally beautiful,

so I lost my heart to both of them and immediately planned

a new life in a village near Rawalpindi

where children grow up in the scent of hibiscus

while their desperate mothers sing heartbreaking songs

as dusk settles over the Pakistani plains.

But they didn’t see me!

And the one wearing a fur coat cried beneath

her glove when she got off at Farimagsgade.

The girl reading Heidegger suddenly shut her book and looked directly at me with a scornfully smile,

as if she’d suddenly caught a glimpse of Mr. Nobody

in his very own insignificance.

And that’s how my heart broke for the fifth time,

when she got up and left the bus with all the others.

Life is so brutal!

I continued for two more stops before giving up.

It always ends like that: You stand alone

on the kerb, sucking on a cigarette,

wound up and mildly unhappy.
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My Fantastic Pen

I prefer writing with a used pen found in the street

or with a promotional pen, gladly one from the electricians,

the gas station or the bank.

Not just because they are cheap (free),

but I imagine that such an implement

will fuse my writing with industry

the sweat of skilled labourers, administrative offices

and the mystery of all existence.

Once I wrote meticulous poems with a fountain pen

-pure poetry about purely nothing

but now I like shit on my paper, tears and snot.

Poetry is not for wimps!

A poem must be just as honest as the Dow Jones index

- a mixture of reality and sheer bluff.

What has one grown too sensitive for? Not much.

That’s why I keep my eye on the bond market

and serious pieces of paper. The stock exchange

belongs to reality – just like poetry.

And that’s why I’m so happy about this ball point pen

from the bank, which I found one dark night

in front of a closed convenience store. It smells

faintly of dog piss, and it writes fantastically.
 The Greatest Showman Sheet Music

Hunting Lizards in the Dark

During the killings unaware

we walked along the lakes.

You spoke of Beethoven,

I studied a rookpicking at dog shit.

Each of us caught up in ourselves

surrounded by a shell of ignorance

that protects our prejudices.

The holists believe that a butterfly in the Himalayas

with the flap of a wing can influence the climate

in Antarctica. It may be true.

But where the tanks roll in

and flesh and blood drip from the trees that is no comfort.

Searching for truth is like hunting lizards

in the dark. The grapes are from South Africa,

the rice from Pakistan, the dates grown in Iran.

We support the idea of open borders for fruit and vegetables,but however we twist and turn

the ass is at the back.

The dead are buried deep inside the newspaper,

so that we, unaffected, can sit on a bench

on the outskirts of paradiseand dream of butterflies.
 American National Standards Institute Inc.



When you see a monkey banging a clam

against a stone it is like seeing one’s self

investigating a philosophical problem.

No one can preclude that animals are cleverer

than us, they manage life without words,

we’re unable to do that. Silence

leads us astray in a psychic labyrinth,

words flicker through the brain like fish

deep down; they constantly shift meaning.

Each of us finds our self in a body;

it is possible to make contact with caresses,

but everything becomes more and more abstract.

Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests;

the mind remembers the settlements

in raw nature. Now we live with bookcases

full of dictionaries, in nameless castles of air,

on separate floors.

What do you call that?
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The anesthetists discuss astronomy

elevating in the lift

while patients arrive in taxis

accompanied or not by family.

The universe

consists of 100 billion galaxies.

If there are sentient civilizations

on just a millionth of those planets

we are far from alone.

Outside: cold rain,


A sick person

sitting in the waiting room

among frayed magazines

with his threadbare life

has only one single prayer.
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When I am hungry I think of your breasts

- which I never got to see -

and your passing Russian glance,

while you passive and restless look around the room

like one of the three melancholy sisters in Chekhov

who drink tea all the time while they talk

of moving to Moscow.

Oh, let us dance together tonight

in a nightclub in Moscow.

Life has become so complex.

And you even play the piano and live with a view

of a cemetery, where the winter sun stands

speculating all afternoon

between the gravestones.

Oh, let us dance together tonight

in a nightclub in Moscow.

When I am hungry I think of your breasts

your Russian mouth, the yellow light in your kitchen

- which I also never got to see -

and your lifelike wrist when you cut

slices of bread and slowly eat, standing,

looking out over the cemetery absentmindedly

listening to a wild symphony by Rachmaninov.

Oh, let us dance together tonight

in a nightclub in Moscow.

But hesitating is wasting time: I want

to see your breasts! Chekhov drank champagne

on his deathbed and Rachmaninov died in the USA.

The black hole awaits us all. So come

just as you are, let’s go to Moscow!

Oh, I want to dance with you tonight

in a nightclub in Moscow.



Now we live as if in a Russian novel written in verse, by Aleksandr Pushkin. We are the ones changing the street signs but we are needy and sleep in the same bed under a mountain of clothes while the frost creaks. Now Moscow is again Moscow and we trudge on. Everything is a lie just as in reality.

You fantasize abouth stealing the machine gun from a sleeping soldier, but the soldiers stay awake all night with you. And you dance all night in Cafe Pushkin, while I stand in the cloakroom smoking Russian cigarettes, what else? Now you are called Natalia and talk like someone who's crazy crazy crazy. And Pushkin was actually murdered by her lover. The Greatest Showman Sheet Music


The Dream of Walking in Clogs

The dream of going home

and walking in clogs forever.

No more running around lost and stressed out in an airport,

taking part in futile receptions,

wasting time in useless meetings.

Living with a blank calendar

at a respectful distance from everyone.

Standing at the gable and staring

after the migratory birds

in March and October,


not having to go anywhere.

Listening to the wind

going hunting for a while

comfortable with one’s fear.

Seeing the sun rise and set

without problems,

pissing in peace

against one’s own fence post.

Standing in one’s clogs

and studying the stars

like a human being.

Is that too much

to demand of life? Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies


Poetry in Copenhagen and elsewhere

It seems that God has chosen a few hundred, or at the very most a couple of thousand, in each nation for the buying of poetry. The genre is published in small print runs and the shelves of poetry doesn't take up much space at the bookstore. That’s how it is in Denmark and in most other countries – even in China with a population of 1.4 billion it is rare to see a collection of poetry among the real bestsellers.

When travelling the world and spending time in airports, you are plainly confronted with these brutal facts. There is always a bookstore in the airport, but too often the shelves hold no poetry whatsoever. At the front of the counter are mysteries and current bestsellers with flashy covers. More modestly placed you may find a section of classics, but no poetry! I think this is rather un-ambitious, poetry has aesthetic dimensions you cannot find in prose. It evokes emotions in a more direct manner and focus on themes of importance for everyone.

Recently I had to change planes at Heathrow and was in transit there a few hours. I went into the bookstore and was presented with the gloomy fact: No poetry. Astonishing! The UK is an old national culture with proud traditions in poetry. British poets have written so much exceptional and emblematic poetry. Would it not be appropriate for every bookstore in the country to carry Blake, Yeats, Pound, Auden, Elliot or Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and Seamus Heaney? In order to find a solution to the mystery I approached the friendly young clerk. “Sorry,” he said without shame, “Poetry doesn’t sell.”

You could receive the same answer in a bookstore in Copenhagen. And we are very well aware of it; the market forces drive life on our planet. However, the problem is that if poetry isn’t to be found in a bookstore it will never get the chance to prove its viability. If readers are only fed mysteries and bestsellers we will all become more stupid, our brains will wither and our souls lose their wings. There ought to be poetry on the shelves of every bookstore with a sense of professional pride and self-respect.

I actually don’t think that the current situation among booksellers gives a true picture of the esteem of poetry among readers. Poetry lives, is doing well and flourishes like never before. It follows its own channels to connect with readers. Readings gather many enthusiasts who enjoy listening to poetry and who may buy a book or two at the same time. And that makes sense because poetry originated in the market square and in the bazar, where poets have recited since antiquity.

That’s how it is: poetry is the necessary breath and oxygen of language. The purpose of poetry is to restore language and prevent us from being insane, and there is every reason for optimism and to feel good about the state of things. Maybe poetry is not displayed at the front of the bookstore and it rarely reaches the top of the bestseller lists. But instead good poetry is long-lived. As the classical Chinese poets Li Bai (701 – 762) notes in a fragment:

Perfect poems Are the only buildings That always stay standing. Blurb

About the Author


Niels Hav is a Danish poet and short story writer with awards from The Danish Arts Council. He is the author of six collections of poetry and three books of short fiction. He has participated in numerous international poetry festivals Europe, Asia, Africa , North and South America. He has frequently been interviewed by the media. His books have been translated into many languages including English, Arabic, Turkish, Dutch, Farsi, Serbian, Albanian, Kurdish and Chinese. His second English poetry collection, We Are Here, was published by Book Thug in Toronto, and his poems and short stories have been published in a large number of journals, magazines, and newspapers in different countries of the world.

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