Olav H. Hauge

Olav H. Hauge (1908-1994):

"Don't Come To Me With The Entire Truth" (1961)
"Across The Swamp" (1966)
"One Word" (1966)
"You Are The Wind" (1966)
"Leaf Huts And Snow Houses" (1971)

translated from the Norwegian by Robert Bly
Trusting Your Life To Water and Eternity (1987)

Preface: Before reading a single line of his work, I knew that I would love Olav H. Hauge, the man and his poems. I had not heard of his name, misspelling it as "Oliver Holga" when Robert Bly mentioned him in his workshop "The Occasions of Poetry" on Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at Room 334 of Margaret Jacks Hall at Stanford. Bly told the 15 students of his visit to Ulvik, Norway (1979) and met the 70-year old Norwegian poet who lived in a little house with hand-made objects. His brother owned a large farm and was wealthy. But Olav was a lonesome guy. He lived his whole life on the proceeds from his 70 apple trees. He used words sparingly like a minimalist poet. He died at 85 sitting in his chair (reminding me of Petrarch who died likewise at his writing table). Bly told us that when Bodil Cappelen, the artist, first stepped into Hauge's house, she knew that she would stay there. They fell in love, and Olav Hauge had 15 years of happy married life in his old age. Bly's story about Hauge sounded like a fairy tale. I went to the Stanford stacks at Green Library and found three books by Olav Hauge, just 36 paces from my computer desk in the Classics Reading Room. I've typed some of my favorite Olav Hauge poems to share with lovers of poetry. There's a Zen quality in Hauge landscape poems which he paints with simplicity and grace. (Peter Y. Chou, April 6, 2008)

Don't Come To Me With the Entire Truth

Don't come to me with the entire truth.
Don't bring me the ocean if I feel thirsty,
nor heaven if I ask for light;
but bring a hint, some dew, a particle,
as birds carry only drops away from water,
and the wind a grain of salt.


Across The Swamp

It is the roots from all the trees that have died
out here, that's how you can walk
safely over the soft places.
Roots like these keep their firmness, it's possible
they've lain here centuries.
And there is still some dark remains
of them under the moss.
They are still in the world and hold
you up so you can make it over.
And when you push out into the mountain lake, high
up, you feel how the memory
of that cold person
who drowned himself here once
helps hold up your frail boat.
He, really crazy, trusted his life
to water and eternity.


One Word

One word
— one stone
in a cold river.
One more stone—
I'll need many stones
if I'm going to get over.


Midwinter. Snow.

Midwinter. Snow.
I gave the birds a piece of bread.
And it didn't affect my sleep.


You Are The Wind

I am a boat
without wind.
You were the wind.
Was that the direction I wanted to go?
Who cares about directions
with a wind like that!


Leaf Huts and Snow Houses

These poems don't amount
to much, just
some words thrown together
at random.
And still
to me
there's something good
in making them, it's
as if I have in them for a little
while a house.
I think of playhouses
made of branches we built
when we were children:
to crawl into them, sit
listening to the rain,
in a wild place alone,
feel the drops of rain on your nose
and in your hair—
or snowhouses at Christmas,
crawl in and close it after
with a sack,
light a candle, be there
through the long chill evenings.

— Olav H. Hauge (1908-1994),
     Trusting Your Life To Water and Eternity
     Twenty Poems of Olav H. Hauge
     Chosen and translated by Robert Bly
     Milkweed Editions, Minneapolis, pp. 11, 25, 33, 35, 43)


Web Links to Olav H. Hauge

Wikipedia: Olav H. Hauge
    (List of works, translations, awards, external links)
Olav H. Hauge in Norwegian
    (Biography, Interview, Bibliography)
"Barley Field" by Olav H. Hauge
    (Translated by Robert Bly, Poetry, Vol. 192, April 2008, p. 47)
Olav H. Hauge's poems
    (Trusting Your Life To Water and Eternity translated by Robert Bly)
Books by Olav H. Hauge
    (Alibris Books on used & out-of-print copies)
Olav H. Hauge articles
    (Katherine Jane Hanson, Professor in Scandinavian Studies)

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