Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Outside The House of Olav H Hauge

The top photograph was taken outside the house where Norwegian poet Olav H Hauge used to live. It is located in Ulvik, a small town at the end of the Hardanger Fjord in Norway. Hauge lived and worked here most of his life, tending the orchard and writing poetry, until his death in 1994.

As chance would have it, we wandered into the centenary celebrations of Hauge’s birth in Ulvik town-square on August 18 while looking for a road that would take us up into the forest. There were flowers and a small PA system and the speeches were all in Norwegian, but I am a sucker for any commemoration of a poet’s life, especially one who translated Mallarm√© and Rimbaud into his native tongue.

Hauge’s own poetry, particularly in Robert Fulton’s translations, reads like William Carlos Williams, which is no bad thing at a time when the stripped informalities of modernism seem so appealing once more. The collection is called ‘Leaf Huts and Snow Houses’ and is available from Anvil Press, whose website is also stripped and informal in a modernist way, so if you want to find out more about the collection, go insetad to http://www.alibris.com/booksearch?qsort=&page=1&matches=7&browse=1&isbn=9780856463570&full=1

The thing I particularly like about Hauge’s home, however, is that it offers the most spectacular view of ‘Bare Island’: a baleful crescent of land just off the shore of the fjord, where people were taken to be executed. At dawn a boat would take them out to the island, where they would be beheaded. The entire fjord forms a natural amphitheatre around Bare Island, so don’t let anyone ever tell you that the Norwegians lack a sense of drama. Besides, what could be more charming than a twentieth-century nature poet with a constant view of an execution site?

To learn more about Olav H Hauge, please go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olav_H._Hauge

In the meantime the 2008 Ulvik Poetry Festival, taking place between September 18 and 2, is dedicated to Hauge’s memory. More details can be found at www.poesifestival.no

Let this be a lesson to you never to start a new blog in the height of summer.

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