Wergeland-workshop, Oslo juni 2008
A subject for discussion at the Wergeland-workshop in Oslo june 2008.
I were asked to formulate some of my thoughts for this workshop, and here they are:
Inspired by the old, but still very energetic poet Henrik Wergeland, I want to express this thoughts:
Is it possible to be visionary in poetry – or in art in general, in our time? Is this possible – without being only airy anglelike, or boring, or the worst: ridiculous? Is there a need for visions?
At the literaturefestival in Lillehammer, which me and Sharron Hass participated in – the main theme was: The future. And with it the thought: Its a painful and very difficult subject - the subject about the future - on the border of being really depressing. Mostly we can only be melancholic, it seems to. We all want to avoid being too depressed, so lets hurry to talk about football, I heard them say at a program about the festival in the radio. Is it possible to have really optimistic thoughts about the future – without being ridiculous, or something of the others states that I mentioned.
(Now I am playing a journalist, who is interviewing you all.)
At university I made my master thesis about the very vast and difficult subject: What is the function of art in our time? It was a holistic question, but this I didnt know at that time, so I tried to fix it in the frame of masscommunication, which was the faculty I belonged to. But in the end for me that question belong both to the faculty of philosophy, religion, literature and social anthropology, or maybe not a faculty at all.
In the end of the work with my masterthesis, I had an existensial crisis which had to do with the question of the evil, it was suddenly that the fact that evilness and suffering exist in the world had to do with me personally, as a question directly to me, to my life and work.
In addition, after I had finished my degree, I had this deep and urgent need only to read – and write one word at the time, not dozens, not all thise academic xerox copies written in a foreign language about difficult and abstract themes, but only this: one word.
This brought me to poetry, to the slow and listening process of poetry.
In these processes I was looking for literature that could help me, that could respond to my urgent needs. When I was at university I found only one book, and that was a collection of essays, written by a poet: Czeslaw Milosz. The book was translated to Norwegian, and was called: I am here, which was the title of on of the essays in the book. These words: I am here, responded very much to me. I had to come back to this, after all the years at university: I am here. I. Am. Here. What devastating and big words. The mystery of being. The simplest of everything, and the biggest, the most profound.
And afterwards I had to start searching. I had to try to find the ground for everything, I had to question everything, and what led me was not the universityteachers, but my own soul, my feelings, my deep inner knowledge of what is good and what is bad.
And I was led to esoteric wisdom, and there was something here which corresponded to what I knew in my soul, there was things here that I could use as hypothesis for life and work. For me I now live with the Platonian thought that its an underlying wisdom behind everything that is, its a sort of divine ideas behind every human being, every leave of grass, every three – and also that the dirt and the evil things have their place in this – which make this thought, this hypothesis extremely complex and extremely difficult to put into a frame – but more the less suitable for the language of poetry.
I live with this thought, and I try to listen to this world behind, which of course also is to listen to the soul, both the gold and the dirt that exist there.
And now I am here: I am here. In this exiting Wergeland-workshop: I try to listen to Wergeland, sense his energy.
Wergelands maybe most strong characteristic was this: he was visionary, and: optimistic about the future. But, of course – he didnt live in a postmodern aera, a secular aera, an aera that exist after all the wars - which only are true with regard to the western world. What would he be thinking and saying to day?
I believe Wergeland would have been – like me – very interested in shamanism and different spiritual movements, esoteric wisdom, and at the same time he would be anarchistic and very skeptical to all doctrines and institutions in the world. I think Wergeland still would have been very interested in the transpersonal areas of life – the area where we are not social categories depending on time and space according to the map and the gregorian calendar. I believe he still would have written a lot about the future, optimistic, but also warning things.
Wergeland got some of his thoughts from neoplatonism, but a lot he must have gotten from his own imaginary and visionary inner world. For me he stands in a great tradition where the poet, or artist, is listening to a sort of world behind, a sort of world with order and wisdom, very complex, not possible to fix into sentences or images, only possible to feel, to sense.
Also for me, poetry is this sort of state: to listen, very carefully, for something behind, and then to play it, express it, like Orfeus did with his lyre. From this world one can capture something that can give something to others, at best a sort of glimpse of the big order, an order with wisdom and care.
I know I am a big romantic, so maybe my question to you today is: is it possible to be a romantic poet today? I am in a sense already one, and in a way I feel it is not possible, so therefore I maybe better ask: Why is it not possible to be a romantic poet today? Or: Can we make it possible?
I know it isnt one big answer to this, I am only interesting in different thoughts about this.
It goes together with the question: Is it possible to be in a optimistic state of mind today?