I felt a need to reflect on what being Danish means to me – this strange seesaw that swings between love and repulsion which my country evokes in me.
As I wrote I came to realize, however, that I wasn’t so much writing about Denmark, as I was writing about Lolland – and Denmark from the perspective of a person from Lolland.
This is – consequently – not a collection with a singular message or aim. It is a jigsaw, a mosaic – fragments of an attempt to define and describe an identity that is in flux.
What does it mean to feel a sense of belonging to a
geographical location? What does it mean to feel at home somewhere? And does it automatically mean that you have to accept all the customs of the place as your own without critique, just because you happened to inherit them? Today, a lot of people struggle to find footing in an increasingly global and unstable world. Denmark seems like a safe haven in many ways. And yet, ironically, this very peace and quiet can be stifling.
Denmark is a country that boasts of being old and distinguished, but whose people really don’t understand what it is that makes them what they are. It can feel burdensome to be made custodian of something I didn’t build with my own hands, and to have to live up to the deeds of the past. And shameful and anxious to see my people skate confusedly around who they are and what they want to be.
Add to the confusion the pull away from Denmark caused by my own island, and its separate identity that is mocked by the country at large.
Denmark is my country – I love my country, and to a certain extent I am proud of being Danish. But it is a love that sometimes swings to repulsion and claustrophobia; a pride that hides an undertow of shame and guilt.
Why write this in both English and Danish? Well, I have primarily written poetry in English up to this point because writing in Danish makes everything feel so much more intimate and serious. Since it is my mother-
tongue, it strikes straight to the core of my being.
English has always made it possible for me to keep
everything I wrote about a safe distance away from me.
Some of the poems in this collection were written in English originally, some in Danish. These are in fact the first poems I have written in my own language, that I have chosen to publish.
If I had written only in English it would not have felt authentic. If I had written only in Danish, it would only have been available to those proficient in one of the Scandinavian languages – excluding all others. So this was the best compromise I could come up with. Both for my own and for my readers’ sakes.
Besides, writing this in both languages has been a journey of discovery – and seeing them both side by side adds an extra dimension to the texts – more so for those who can read both and compare, seeing as our
usage of language shapes our thinking, aiding cultural differences to no insignificant amount. Even between closely related languages, there can be such differences in the fine print, which again is reflected in, and reflects, the mentality of the people who speak them.
I will not claim to be able to speak for anybody besides myself here. I am who I am, and I feel what I feel.
I love my country but I am most critical of her people, myself included. We need some shaking up.
Writing this collection may in fact be seen as an attempt to shake up myself – for better or for worse.
And now on to the oldest Kingdom in the world. My island’s “mother” – and mine…