Born in his own mists of time in Glastonbury - the Avalon of Somerset - to a Welsh mother and an English father, Ian David Lukins has been living for many years in the Mols Region of Jutland, Denmark, where he has primarily been teaching, writing, translating and doing photography...
A COMMENT ON THE POP-OP POETS "nearing 100 days":
POP-OP started as an idea in the summer of 2016 - a response to what was being planned for Aarhus (Denmark's second largest city) that had been chosen as one of two "Cultural Capitals of Europe - 2017". What we heard talk of was projects for prestigious events - events that could publicise this title, put Aarhus on the map, get seen, make its inhabitants proud, justify such an honour, such a choice.
It all seemed very grand and above our heads - as such plans requiring heavy funding and months of organising always do - and certainly didn't look likely to involve us.
The 'we' in this case was the motley group of local poets and writers, who were already reading their work at a number of venues in and around the city - some of them trying seriously to establish themselves, and, if not live by it, thrive on it.
I, being one of these, felt the usual response - the one urged on by the frustration of why seemingly everything had to be elitist to have any chance of being publically noticed - the classic sorry-for-self, I-don't-belong-to-the-fund-swallowing-club feeling; oh, those envious drops of wormwood!
I chose to defy this mood, and stop moping. The fact that our (my) local city had been chosen as a Cultural Capital of Europe for one whole year was just too good an opportunity to miss.
How could we, who were small and comparatively 'invisible', and who were present before the cultural year officially started, be perhaps beneficial and benefit? Could we establish ourselves better, promote writing in our city by becoming more visible, more active - meeting people where they lived and worked, instead of waiting for them to come out to the few fixed venues and find us; maybe even actively joining us by writing and reading themselves?
It would have to be grassroots, low-key, direct - on the streets, in public places: malls, precincts, parks. The money-train was already out of the station and rolling. And - though it would be nice to get hold of some of the funding-dosh - it wasn't the primary reason for forming the POP-OP poets.
For many of us 'serious' types writing is something we want, even feel the need, to do.
That's when I shared the idea with another local poet, Tomas Dalgaard.
Tomas and I were agreed. The chance should be grabbed, and as many people as possible should be met in their daily surroundings.
We needed a group, enough to form a corps. But we also felt that it was important to start strongly with a few of the best of us and then build up, as hearsay would be important; perhaps vital for continuation and success.
In hindsight we were possibly too cautious, too ambitious - resulting in little to no progress being made in 2016.
POP-OP was born in unsteady rush in the middle of January 2017. We were joined then by Daniel Mantel, who was as eager as us to make the idea work. Daniel coined the name 'POP-OP'; which, I'm sure, proved important in saving the whole idea from being still-born!
We became more realistic, choosing to perform our work for different groups of students from the humanities faculties at the city university.
We were five who read our work for the first time at the Student Café on Friday 27th January 2017 as 'the POP-OP Poets'. Henrik Giversen and Anders Gade had joined us; both of them good poets with strong voices and impressive performance presentations. The turn-out to hear us was meagre; half of them being international students who didn't understand much Danish.
As a group we didn't get the impetus we had hoped, but we had begun - knowing from this experience that we had to grow and build in earnest if there was to be a viable future.
This we have managed to achieve. The POP-OP Poets is today a corps of fourteen poets and writers - eleven of whom have already been in action.
With spring now in the air, and spring in our voices and legs, we feel ready for the challenge of meeting fellow citizens of our city with our writing.
A COMMENT ON THE NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE:
I've just completed reading a trilogy for the second time by the contemporary Icelandic writer, Jón Kalman Stefánsson. A piece of literature has to be really good before I read it again - let alone read it again almost as soon as I have put it down!
I won't attempt to come (and, indeed, can't come) with a recipe for what makes a book of literature a potential 'classic' (in this case, a trilogy I've read in Danish translation - not even in English ; let me also praise the Danish translator, Kim Lembek, for such an enriching read), but a little can perhaps be said. Such an evaluative recipe of what works, what is relevant, is good, also includes a degree of subjectivity, sensority, that is vital when reading literature, but very awkward to define or evaluate when making a decision.
In my view, this trilogy:"Heaven and Hell", "The Sorrow of the Angels", "The Human Heart" (my translations) is definitely worthy of being considered a modern classic.
Stefánsson's writing is stunning. He seems to master the craft of writing, the whole gambit: including superb narrative description, engaging characters and situational moods, wisdom of life. If I were suddenly to find myself on the Nobel Committee for Literature (and it was the turn of Northern Europe to be given the prize!) I would have no hesitation in proposing Jón Kalman Stefánsson for the award.
Maybe it is fortunate that I am not, as (though I am partial to Bob Dylan the singer/song writer) I just cannot seriously understand why Dylan's song texts are literarily worthy of the Nobel Prize in ... Literature. A good number of Bob Dylan's texts are great social commentary, fine pamphleteering - as effective and relevant as the writings of Tom Payne. But it does not, to my mind, make them - with the exception of four or five short texts - quality literature in both form and content; untied to time.
When reading fiction of the crafted quality of Stefánsson and a number of other contemporary writers (including some excellent American writers, if it, indeed, has been the turn of North America to be given this award!) I'm reminded of this less-Nobel decision with dread as a wasted ticket; dearly hoping that it is a one-off, gigantic mistake (even outdoing a couple of other questionable choices in earlier years) that just won't (can't, please!) happen again ... not in my lifetime, at least!
I don't blame Bob Dylan at all. He has got the quality that might well deserve the Nobel Prize for Music - if there were such a thing. I blame, in my endless questioning confusion 'why-how? why-how? why-how?', a group including what I can only imagine to be deranged hippies in Nobel ticket-holder positions, with an unbending 'junkyfied' need to further their (generation's) 'self-appraisal' to an unbelievably dissolutional degree.
Though all of us know that politics and ideology is part and parcel of the whole Nobel Prize event, I sincerely hope that the degree of such bufoonery does not repeat itself in the field of literature and the humanities in future, and that serious writers seeking new and more precise expression through words will be justly recognised and rewarded.
PS: Of course, everything is relative; Adolf Hitler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1939!
A COMMENT ON SHAKESPEARE'S SONNETS:
This year (2016) many events are being organised to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. I'm one of a small group who chose to read some of his sonnets for discussion. Afterwards, I chose to go further by reading all 154 sonnets in sequence. This proved so fascinating that I have re-read them all several times since.
I have consciously tried to disregard the many wild-brewed academic theories about: who Shakespeare really was, the 'correct' sequence of these sonnets, who the young man being addressed actually was, whether or not Shakespeare was a homosexual etc. etc. and have read them closely at face value for their beauty and craftsmanship.
The read has been stunning, and revealing both as a thorough-going study of the intricate, complex character and nature of love, and as a reflection of Shakespeare's own creative, sensitive character.
The 154 sonnets - comprising two sequences: the first one, of 125 sonnets and an 'epilogal'12-liner(no.126), that I choose to call 'the beautiful youth', attempts to comprehensively characterize ideal, spiritual love; a direct 'I'voice address from Shakespeare to a man; the second sequence, comprising the final 28 sonnets, that I call 'the dark woman', at times using third-person address, portrays the character of physical desire and its detrimental effect on pure, untainted love.
In my view the irregularities, particularly in the first sequence, reflect natural changes of emotion arising out of any intimate love relationship, and enhance the constant flux of intense emotional passion and helpless insecurity any lover might feel. Shakespeare's creative genius and sensibility presents the full gambit of conflicting feelings reflecting how affected, devoted and dependent the 'I' voice is. His object of love is reverenced, urged, chastised, worshipped; receives tributes and jealous warnings.
It is in this first sequence that I sense the presence of Shakespeare; the insecure human being, full of sensibility and imagination. He lives for me so that I sense a thrill at knowing him spiritually in a way I've never discovered in his plays. In contrast, I find the wit, bitterness and distanced tone of the second sequence much more akin to that of his plays. These sonnets reveal a close relationship between Shakespeare's poetry and his passion.
Unlike the Petrarchan commentary on the meaning of love, I find myself presented in these sonnets with the direct, dramatic, vocally-witten, Shakespearean feeling of love; highlighted so masterfully by the contrastive presentation of carnal love in the final 28 sonnets, where the mistress is a lusty, luring temptress threatening - even desecrating - the ideal of pure love. In this second series the mistress is distanced and dangerous; the 'I' voice wary, feeble, subjected to her powers of seduction. The 'I' voice also expresses irony and sharp-tongued bitterness, suggesting that this 'dark woman' might well compete with him for the love of the 'beautiful youth'; Shakespeare seems doubly betrayed by his two 'loves'.
I have found these sonnets not only a fascinating presentation of the multifacetted character of love, but a further aid in appreciating Shakespeare's dramas; particularly his astute understanding and awareness of human nature.
"So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee." (final couplet:sonnet xviii)'
Shakespeare has done it. In these love sonnets truth and beauty have in their way defied death and the ravagement of time. We're still reading and being enriched by the insight and beauty in them more than 400 years after they were written!
I hope you'll now wish to read them yourself; aloud, of course.*
* FOOTNOTE: Now, near the end of this Shakespeare commemorative year (with four full readings of the 154 poems, plus a public reading of 14 of them in 'dialogue' with six pieces of music by Dowland under my belt), I reiterate the joy and enrichment his love sonnets have given me.
Should you wish to buy a copy of my poetry or comment constructively about any poem, please contact me via my e-mail: "ian at lukins dot dk"