I am surprised to find that I haven't written about this Norwegian poet before.
Olav H. Hauge is a significant voice in the Norwegian literary landscape. In a fashion he also is a significant voice in the Norwegian geographical landscape, as he in many ways expresses its grandeur and simplicity, its wildness and purity, and the human feeling of separateness from each other and from nature, while at the same time he transmits a sense of unity with everything and everyone.
His poetry varies in form, from sonnets to short haiku-like poems, and the quality varies as well, but he has written a great deal of poems of simple beauty and usually with a meditative approach to all things small and universal.
In addition to a body of hundreds of poems, Olav H. Hauge left many volumes of diaries behind when he died in 1994 and they bear witness of a widely read man. Professionally he worked as a gardener, and it seems almost strange that this single man living alone (for a great part of his life) in the green and mountainclad landscape of Hardanger (Western Norway) read Chinese poetry, French, German and British poetry, philosophy, classics, literary magazines - more than I am aware of, naturally. What a library he must have collected in his house at Ulvik.
He writes in a characteristic dialect, and the special tone this brings to his poems is hard to translate, but I think the following is a good translation by Robin Fulton. More of his translations of Olav H. Hauge's poetry can be found in this book. But here is an example of Hauge's poetry:
Drops in the East Wind, 1966
You've left the big storms
behind you now.
You didn't ask then
why you were born,
where you came from, where you were going to,
you were just there in the storm,
in the fire.
But it's possible to live
in the everyday as well,
in the grey quiet day,
set potatoes, rake leaves,
There's so much to think about here in the world,
one life is not enough for it all.
After work you can fry bacon
and read Chinese poems.
Old Laertes cut briars,
dug round his fig trees,
and let the heroes fight on at Troy.
A few lines from this poem bring another towering figure in Scandinavian poetry to mind: Tomas Tranströmer. In fact, the whole poem reminds me of Tranströmer, but especially these lines: "But it's possible to live / in the everyday as well, / in the grey quiet day".
This greatly resembles Tranströmer's "Efter en lång torka" which you can read (in Norwegian, not the original Swedish) here. The last stanza goes as follows:
Det går att ringa upp hägringens ö.
Det går att höra den gråa rösten.
Järnmalm är honung för åskan.
Det går att leva med sin kod.
In translation it sounds something like this:
It's all right to telephone the island of mirage.
It's all right to hear the gray voice.
Iron ore is honey to the thunder.
It's all right to live by your own code.
The poem "Everyday" by Hauge also reminds me of Jack Gilbert, a poet I have discussed earlier (here too).
Again there is a certain Easternness in a poem that attracts me. When I say Eastern, I actually refer to a sense of simplicity which I most clearly see in various Eastern traditions. But in fact this is a quality of existence that every human being can occupy to great extent. You only have to look for it. Simplicity, space, openness and quiet is there all the time - it is just that we are usually looking in other directions.
The following poem is widely famous in Norway, and I think the craving for freedom it expresses translates well into any human language.
It's the Dream
Drops in the East Wind, 1966
It's the dream we carry in secret
that something miraculous will happen,
that it must happen –
that time will open
that the heart will open
that doors will open
that the rockface will open
that spring will gush –
that the dream will open,
that one morning we will glide into
some little harbour we didn't know was there.
There is currently a new volume out in English, with translations by Robert Bly and Robert Hedin.