Norwegian Håvard J. Nilsen loves Burroughs, Whitman, Blake and Bjørneboe. He has called for The Nobel Peace Prize to be granted to Edward Snowden.
In 2011 he spent the fall season writing in Berlin. His works have been published in Lasso, La Granada, KAMILLA and Årbok for Meløy and Bøygens online edition.
You’ve been spending some time in Berlin while working on your poems. What did you find so seductive and inspiring about the German capital?
Oh, Berlin is so much, on multiple levels. The history, all the different cultural expressions, the space of the city, so wide(especially for a Norwegian, used to mountains ...).
But I think the thing with Berlin for me is that it was the first foreign city I traveled to all alone, as a beginning of my semester abroad.
I found myself lost in a city that I had heard and read about my whole life, it was an amazing and somewhat terrifying feeling.
Is it hard to focus on poetry rather than novels?
No, for me it’s actually the other way around. It’s hard to maintain a steady flow in the creative processes that could lead to a finished novel when you also spend a lot of your energy on other work. For me anyways.
With the poems it’s much easier; they don’t demand a grand narrative, a whole world to be built, like in a novel. And I’ve also discovered that poetry comes more naturally to me, somehow. It can be a moment on the bus, something I hear on the news, a look on someone’s face in a great show like The West Wing – something that gives a pulse.
Which writing tradition do you feel most obliged to as a writer?
Long live the Romantics!
I draw inspiration from all sorts of people and writings but the meeting with romantic poetry, for example Blake, has been intense. I mean, we’re talking pounding heart and great joy here!
The narrow rationality of the modern world can be suffocating – and is in the end founded on ideas that won’t hold water. We are so much more than our great ideas, and poetry can touch that. If only just in glimpses and fragments.
Which trends do you see in contemporary poetry?
Seems there are a lot of very exciting things happening on the poetic front these days. A publisher like Flamme here in Norway has showered us with a whole number of beautiful books in the intersection between prose and poetry; experimental, but still accessible. And the fact that a poet like Yahya Hassan has managed to write material that is at the center of the integration debate in Denmark is very encouraging for those of us who write. You also have a number of really great literary journals in Oslo.
I’m excited for the future of poetry!
William Burroughs: Cities of the Red Night
Tomas Espedal: Gå (German: Gehen: oder die Kunst, ein wildes und poetisches Leben zu führen) (greatest living Norwegian writer!)
Jens Bjørneboe: Frihetens øyeblikk
Allen Ginsberg: Howl
John Masefield: The Passing Strange
Erik Fosnes Hansen: Beretninger om beskyttelse (German: Momente der Geborgenheit)
Interview: Victoria Trunova