Niels Hav

Niels Hav

Niels Hav is a full time poet and short story writer with prestigious awards from The Danish Arts Council. In English he has We Are Here, published by Book Thug, and poetry and fiction in numerous magazines including The Literary Review, Poetry Canada, The Antigonish Review, EVENT, Exile, The Los Angeles Review, DanDelion Magazine, Filling Station and PRISM International.

In his native Danish Hav is the author of three books of short fiction and six collections of poetry, most recently Grundstof and The Married Wives of Copenhagen.

Raised on a farm in western Denmark Niels Hav today resides in the most colourful and multiethnic part of the Danish capital. He has travelled widely in Europe, Asia, North and South America.


“…Niels Hav’s We Are Here, aptly translated into English by Patrick Friesen and P.K. Brask, brings to us a selection from the works of one of Denmark’s most talented living poets and is all the more welcome for that reason….

As exemplified in We Are Here, Hav’s poetry is characterized by an economy of expression, disarmingly straightforward language, gentle humor, irony – which is often self-directed – arresting imagery, and a subdued but persistent undertone of existential angst…

Niels Hav’s We Are Here touches all facets of what it means to be a sentient human being in an imperfect and impermanent world. Readers will find much that is familiar to them in this collection but will experience the familiar through a different lens, one that can help put the world into a fresher and, possibly, more lucid perspective.”

– Frank Hugus, The Literary Review

Interview in Middle East Online


  • De gifte koner i København. Poetry – Jorinde & Joringel, 2009.
  • We Are Here. Poetry translated by Patrick Friesen & P.K. Brask, Toronto 2006.
  • U Odbranu Pesnika. Poetry translated by Tatjana Simonovi? & Milena Rudež, Belgrade 2008.
  • Grundstof. Poetry – Gyldendal, 2004.
  • Nenadeina Sreka. Poetry translated by Zoja Drunova. Spektar Press, Macedonia 1997.
  • Når jeg bliver blind. Poetry – Gyldendal, 1995.
  • God’s blue Morris. Poetry translated by Patrick Friesen & P.K. Brask, Crane Editions, 1993.
  • Den iranske sommer. Short stories – Gyldendal, 1990.
  • Ildfuglen, okay. Poetry – Hekla, 1987.
  • Sjælens Geografi. Poetry – Hekla, 1984.
  • Øjeblikket er en åbning. Short stories – Hekla, 1983.
  • Glæden sidder i kroppen. Poetry – Jorinde & Joringel, 1982.
  • Afmægtighed forbudt. Short stories – Hekla, 1981.

Laxness in Naples

In Naples I chanced upon Halldór Laxness. It was strange,
because he had died that spring. He smiled, delighted
beneath his newly-trimmed moustache and walked quickly through
the spacious room, an unostentatious restaurant
with white tableclothes near Piazza Garibaldi.

He seemed in good health, dressed in light pants
and a plaid tweed jacket, just like the photos
from Iceland in the fifties. He sat down at a table occupied
by a woman and a man, and the three of them spoke spiritedly
to each other in Italian, while the waiter served wine
and various courses for them; first pasta,
then fish, bread and salad.

Halldór Laxness ate with gusto,
his laughter braying, and he was engaged in the conversation.
That pleased me, I had heard he’d grown senile and,
besides, he was dead.

When their meal was almost over, I felt like
going over to say hello, tell him how glad I was
to see him hale and well. But I lacked the words,
and perhaps he wouldn’t like being recognized
in a strange country, now that he was dead.
Instead I listened intensely to their conversation,
when suddenly I managed to catch an utterly
clear reply: “The God of humans is of varying greatness,
just like they are,” Laxness said. “Small people have small gods,
and the small-minded look in vain
for Him in a microscope.” He laughed heartily.

In the end the two Italians got up from the table.
The woman gave a little speech, while she brought out a parcel,
the size of a book and gave it to Halldór Laxness.
He opened the parcel with great care.
It turned out to contain a pair or socks, possibly silk.
Halldór Laxness was moved, tears welled in his eyes,
and he said something in a soft slurred voice. I couldn’t
make out every word, but his Italian was beautiful,
and I understood him to say: “Thank you,
that is a good gift. And it’s not even
my birthday!”

Niels Hav
© Translated by P. K. Brask & Patrick Friesen

Published with the permission of Niels Hav