Olav H. Hauge - During those years when I lived a truly spiritual life, they called me sick and locked me up

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Olav H. Hauge, Luminous Spaces: Olav H. Hauge: Selected Poems & Journals, Trans. by Olav Grinde, White Pine Press, 2016.

"'During those years when I lived a truly spiritual life, they called me sick and locked me up.' Intense forces are in play in the writings of Norwegian poet and diarist Olav H. Hauge. His Luminous Spaces is the life work of a restless mind and a troubled heart seeking insight into the spiritual, alert to the bleakness and beauties of nature, and intimate with philosophy and literature. His prose is rich, his poetry finely cut. Here is writing born of the need to know and the will to survive. Like the conch of which he wrote, his writings record the building of a soul to speak from solitude."—Marvin Bell

Luminous Spaces spans seventy years of Olav H. Hauge's poetry with over three hundred poems, a third of which have never appeared in English. It also includes a generous selection from his four thousand pages of journals, previously unpublished in translation, and an intimate forward by his widow, Bodil Cappelen.

This is the ocean.
All serious,
vast and grey.
Yet just as the mind
in solitary moments
suddenly opens its
shifting reflections
to secret depths
– so the ocean, too,
one blue morning
may open itself
to sky and solitude.
Look, says the gleaming ocean,
I too have stars
and blue depths.

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Olav H. Hauge, The Dream We Carry: Selected and Last Poems of Olav Hauge, Trans. by Robert Bly, Copper Canyon Press; Bilingual ed., 2008.

"...spare, psalmlike poems....Together, the poems in this beautifully translated selection... provide us with the autobiography of a poet who felt most at home during winter, in solitude. Hauge deserves a larger American readership, and this book may summon it." —Publishers Weekly

"(Hauge's) poetry is miniaturist, pictorial, and ruminative; personal in that his experience, cognitive and sensual observations, and intentions are everywhere in it. Yet it isn't at all confessional or self-assertive.... He is a man who knows where he is and helps us feel that we can know where we are, too."—Booklist

“If you have a tiny farm, you need to love poetry more than the farm. If you sell apples, you need to love poetry more than the apples.”—Robert Bly, from the introduction
Olav H. Hauge, one of Norway’s most beloved poets, is a major figure of twentieth-century European poetry. This generous bilingual edition—introduced by Robert Bly—includes the best poems from each of Hauge’s seven books, as well as a gathering of his last poems.
Ever sage and plainspoken—and bearing resemblance to Chinese poetry—Hauge’s compact and classically restrained poems are rooted in his training as an orchardist, his deep reading in world literatures, and a lifetime of careful attention to the beauties and rigors of the western fjordland. His spare imagery and unpretentious tone ranges from bleak to unabashedly joyous, an intricate interplay between head and heart and hand.

The rose has been sung about.
I want to sing of the thorns,
and the root—how it grips
the rock hard, hard
as a thin girl’s hand.

During a writing career that spanned nearly fifty years, Olav H. Hauge produced seven books of poetry, numerous translations, and several volumes of correspondence. A largely self-educated man, he earned his living as a farmer, orchardist, and gardener on a small plot in the fjord region of western Norway.

Hauge (1908–1994) worked as a farmer and gardener in the fjord region of his native western Norway—his spare, psalmlike poems seem to be made by someone used to working with his lands, like maker of the houses of branches we built/ when we were children. These are also poems infused with a wry, modernist perspective: Today I saw/ two moons,/ one new/ and one old./ I have a lot of faith in the new moon./ But its probably just the old. Hand in hand with that sensibility comes an allegiance to Japanese haiku—Hauge delivers odes to Basho in addition to Brecht—and readers may be reminded of Kenneth Rexroth. Together, the poems in this beautifully translated selection (the book contains the Norwegian en face) provide us with the autobiography of a poet who felt most at home during winter, in solitude. Hauge deserves a larger American readership, and this book may summon it. - Publishers Weekly

“There is nothing so scary/ about grasshoppers sharpening scythes./ But when the troll’s flea whispers,/ be careful.”
Oh, Olav Hauge, sometimes I get bored when I read lovely lines made in and reflect insistently beautiful pastoral setting. Sometimes, I am tired of simple meat and the breath of seasons. But when I see within a line the gaping horror of the existential abyss, rendered miniature by a poet’s loving handling of language, well, then... I can buy that. Word.
Olav Hauge was a Norwegian farmer and gardener. He had an orchard in the town in which he was born, Ulvik. He read hungrily many types and tones of poetry. He translated. He labored on a small bit of land. In translator Robert Bly’s simple and respectful introduction, Hauge is portrayed as a man of gentle stuff:
During his late twenties, he spent some time in a mental institution. At sixty-five, he married the Norwegian artist Bodil Cappelen, whom he met at one of his rare poetry readings... He died in the old way; no real evidence of disease was present. He simply did not eat for ten days, and so he died... A horse-drawn wagon carried his body back up the mountain after the service. Everyone noticed a small colt that ran happily alongside its mother and the coffin all the way.
From here, the book begins. Bly is actually a co-translator with Robert Hedin, and they both have interesting stylistic idiosyncrasies -- part of the endless conversation about translation and creation and documentation. Can we simply jump languages? No. Do languages shape the way we perceive reality? Of course. Does this complicated mess have something to do with the insides of Hauge’s brain? Yes, yes.
This nice edition (bilingual, cleanly designed, soothingly severe) makes much ado about the connection between Hauge and the Chinese poetry he read and translated (i.e. “wrote”). I think this connection makes a lot of sense, but there are things here that are so distinct that the comparison slights both parties. Another notion that, to me, seems very useful is to consider the artwork of Andrew Goldsworthy (see some work here) who plays with the passing of time in pastoral setting, the knowing of place through its patterns, and a luxurious kind of minimalism.
Still, though, I struggle with this poetry. I feel like I haven’t read anything truly shattering in months. I worry that poetry is too easily turned into pillow-covers and crappy gift books. And I think our culture just loves to misinterpret the work of people like Hauge. We like his plainspoken, good horse-sense. “I, too, have stars/ and blue depths.” “These poems don’t amount/ to much, just/ some words thrown together/ at random.” “I stock firewood,/ keep my poem short.” See? It’s a little boring.
But, then, I think of these poems in a context. You can read Hauge’s work as a kind of guidebook, a manifesto. His life seems so tender in its thoughtful and excess-less trajectory. Bly’s introduction stresses this warm, pre-commercial lifestyle, this wonderful sense of the world as it truly is -- and the poems sit on that shelf. I don’t think there is any American season quite as vile as November to February, with our holidays and gout-like consumption, our ugly packaging, and our self-entitled pleasure-seeking. I would like to think that poets like Hauge gift us something a little better, something with troll fleas. I read this book, actually, on a holiday flight, unnaturally floating above the lower Midwest. I thought it was kind of hilarious to do such a thing. “One’s warmth/ collects/ in a small pocket.” I don’t know why humans haven’t progressed in the direction of the gift economy. Why don’t we use friends like Olav Hauge -- and Emily Dickinson and Lorine Niedecker and bower birds and wind -- to negotiate the abyss? Why do we accept false realities? Why don’t we barter with arts & crafts and song?
This is the dream we carry through the world
that something fantastic will happen
that it has to happen
that time will open by itself
that doors shall open by themselves
that the heart will find itself open
that mountain springs will jump up
that the dream will open by itself
that we one early morning
will slip into a harbor
that we have never known.
Well, shit, I just don’t know. While “[l]ife is merciful,” blinding us and “provid[ing] illusions,” it is still, for all of us and for Hauge, a hunting for the grave. The grave “has no small window to the stars” and “a deer hoof/ would barely/ trip over it.” So, what we’re left with is probably just the need to mark things. Writers are part-Kilroy, part-storm; they show us how language and existence violently and hopelessly twist around one another. “Let us slip into/ sleep [Lat oss glida inn/ i svevnen], into/ the calm dream [i den logne draumen],/ just slip in [glida inn].” Can you hear all that? That’s Olav Hauge knocking at your door. He’ll turn your sleep into a loaf of bread, and he’ll arm the moon with a bloody blade. - Olivia Cronk  http://www.bookslut.com/poetry/2009_01_013870.php
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Olav H. Hauge, Leaf-Huts and Snow-Houses, Trans. by Robin Fulton, Carcanet Press, 2004.

In this generous selection of nearly half of Hauge's poetic work, Robin Fulton displays the range, variety and distinctive qualities of his poetry. Though deeply rooted in the West Norwegian landscape which he evokes so memorably, Hauge's poetry has a kinship in background and temperament with that of Robert Frost, while also sharing the wry humour and cool economy of William Carlos Williams and Brecht, whom he translated. Often epigrammatic, yet lyrical in impulse, his poems have a serenity which makes them unusually rewarding.
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Olav H. Hauge, Selected Poems, Trans. by Robin Fulton, White Pine Press, 1990.
Hague, born in 1908, is one of Norway's outstanding poets. He has spent his life in Ulvik, a small town in the Hardanger area of Western Norway, and has made a living off the apple crop from his orchard, an acre in size. This large and diverse selection is drawn from all phases of his work. His poems, though deeply rooted in his western Norwegian landscape, are universal in their everyday subject matter, wry humour and an economy of language reminiscent of W C Williams or Robert Francis.
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Olav H. Hauge, Don't Give Me the Whole Truth, Trans. by James Greene,‎ Robin Fulton and Siv Hennum, Anvil Press Poetry, 1985.

Olav H. Hauge, born in 1908, is one of Norway's most highly regarded contemporary poets. This extensive selection of his poems is the first to appear in English translation. Though deeply rooted in his own West Norwegian landscape, which he evokes memorably, his poems are of universal not merely local appeal. In their everyday subject-matter, their wry humour and their cool economy, his poems are comparable to those of William Carlos Williams or Brecht, some of whose work he has translated. Hauge's sharpness is that of precise observation and insight, not of metaphorical extravagance. Epigrammatic in their concision yet lyrical in their impulse, his poems have a serenity which makes them unusually rewarding.

Poetry Month 2016: Olav H. Hauge

Olav H. Hauge (1908–1994) is one of the main poets of twentieth-century Norwegian literature.