Jan Oscar Hansen is a conjurer of symbiosis, a weaver of magical words and images, passion and pathos that have stood the test of time, Jan talks all about these to Dr. Amitabh Mitra.
1. Jan please tell us about yourself.
Film : Casablanca.
Writer: Ernest Hemingway
Poet : Hendrik Wergeland
Some of my work has been translated into Hindi by Pradip Choudhuri and my first collection “2fairground” was published in India.
Plans: Being of a working class and not well connected my hope is to write better; my latest manuscript now in book form "La Strada" was published on its own merits and not through the usual channels of knowing the right people.
2. You are a Norwegian settled in Portugal. Tell me about your feelings about the Norwegian poetry publishing scene. Have you written and published in the Norwegian language?
When I lived in Norway I never thought of writing poetry, although I did read some poems, mostly by Scandinavian poets, some of the stuff I liked but most of it I found too nationalistic. When I went to live in England I did thought of writing, but disliked the environment so much that I didn’t began writing before I came to rural Portugal under my own roof. Naturally I began writing in my own language, but the reaction or lack of it was thoroughly negative, so I switched language and now only use the English language.
3. Having seen the world sailing to different ports, did any specific country influence you in your writings?
As a seafarer I was, perhaps, not one of the crew I liked to walk around on my own and found, that although we might look different, we are essentially the same, this of course take the mystic out of traveling, but it leaves me with the sense that the western world has lost the warm humanity that makes life worthwhile living, but that eastern philosophy too is losing ground to our consumer society.
PS. The idea that many, publications, carry my poetry is new to me.
4. Your love poems are the best ever written by any contemporary poet, how do you write such lovely love poetry
About love poetry, what you are saying is very flattering, but I’m only trying to convey that love is that men too think of love as more than mere sex.
5. You have a special attachment to India, most of the Indian poetry publications have your poetry, and how do you manage that?
India and Indian poets were the first to publish my work and respect me as a poet.
6. Tell me about your Portuguese influences.
In Portugal, the almond tree. It is an ugly tree but once a year in early Spring it flowers and its beauty is emotional too.
7. The best food, the best wine and the Poetry of Jan Oscar Hansen on a rain shattered evening in a medieval castle with the fire roaring next to you, what do you think about that?
When rain falls on my old roof tiles and the bird’s nests are dry I cannot think of a place other than here I would like to be; after years of turmoil I simply love life.
8. You have created history by writing a poem on Kolkata, the one of many foreign writers who has written on Kolkata, tell us what made you write that poem?
I Dream of Calcutta by Jan Oscar Hansen
At the humble part of Calcutta, far from posh
places where men wear three piece suits and
ravishing women, expensive fur and the air-
condition is turned so low it can be in New
York a January day, they gave me booze made
in distilleries hidden in the tall grass. Epiphany,
at the hospital for the poor and dying I met my
mother and told into those dark fathomless eyes
the mess I have made out of my own life; held
her tiny hand in mine, the fluttering of a bird’s
heart, till stillness came, I saw, through a glass
empty window, cold stars. Tried to enter the rich
enclave, but low paid lackeys, in starched opera
uniforms, blocked my quest for equality.
I saw a TV program about Kolkata (I like the use of the letter “K” it’s more natural for me than “C”. And absorbed the atmosphere, color, aroma and so on, but once, in 1964, a plane I was on landed at the airport and we, the crew spent a night nearby before flying off again, to Japan I think quite mundane really, my life, so I wrote that poem, don’t know if it is any good though, I tend to write as I feel and that is not always what is in the open… and not to forget I have been reading quite a few Indian poetry in magazines such as The Quest, Replica, Alternative Literature (Pradip’) Bridge-in Making, Samvedana and Poetry International.
8. Laugh Clown, Laugh
I'm not going to Sorrento
this year, in Naples they
took me for a clown
when I cried in the street,
she left, when I refused
to go Dutch;
"Ridi, pagliaccio" they
is the ultimate sacrifice
that's what melancholic
'Laugh Clown, Laugh' is my favorite poem. Give us a backdrop of that beautiful poem.
Laugh clown, laugh… on an Italian poetry site I read “Ridi Pagliaccio”. And the poem wrote itself; I have been to Napoli a few times, but as For Sorrento, I think there is a song about that place
Perhaps these poems says more about me than I care to divulge.
I was writing a novel, it took long, when
looking up, a window shutter slammed,
as the breaths of fall frostily entered.
Alone, they had gone; family and friends
tired of waiting for me to have time for
them. The October wind tells me I’m old.
Three hundred blank pages going sepia,
distant memories, love and laughter, too
late now; deep shadows obscure the past.
The august heat so fierce that oil paintings in the town’s art gallery, near the slave market, melted…creamy sheep on green, pink flowers in yellow vases, blue mountain lakes;
whitewashed cottages in hazy morning glades and fat trout in a river that meandered in a landscape of dreams merged, and an idle stream of colors trickled down roman steps and absorbed glittering dust till it came to halt on bubbling asphalt street;
when the cooling breeze of autumn came the great grandson of slaves cut the street in squares, framed and sold them back to the gallery as abstract art, with tyre marks on cruel abstraction that told of bitter abuse through human history.
In the forest of contemporary poetry review,
Andrew Motion's poem is perfection,
solid doors and workshop double glazing,
only I hear no voice inside,
perfection for its own sake is cold.
Deeper in the tall forest away from the tall trees
that could be splendid masts on a tea clipper
to sail to India and back in a fortnight,
I found a haiku,
a sapling that was mine,
a tiny voice asking to be heard
and for a moment I was gloriously famous
in my own mind,
but happiness is transient.
Heard my business brother's voice ironically
asking how much I was paid for my three
March 31, 2007