Oyster Boy Review 20  
  Summer 2012
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Northern Light

Reginald Harris

  The Dream We Carry: Selected and Last Poems of Olav H. Hauge.
Robert Bly & Robert Hedin, translator.
Copper Canyon Press, 2008.
144 pages, $18 (paperback).
ISBN: 1556592884

Norwegian poet Olav H. Hauge (1908-1994) was born in the small settlement of Ulvik, where he lived for the rest of his life, working his own farm and orchard. In his twenties, he spent periods of time in mental institutions, and in other areas of his life he was a "late bloomer," not publishing his first book of poetry until age thirty-eight, and marrying artist Bodil Cappelen when he was sixty-five. In addition to seven volumes of his own poetry, Hauge translated German, French, and English poems into Norwegian.

His wide-ranging interest in literature and the inspiration of classical Chinese poetry and haiku is apparent everywhere in his spare and subtle work. He nods to other writers known for their love of solitude or use of nature like Basho, Emily Dickinson, and Robert Frost. The isolation of rural life and beauty of the natural world are major themes in his work, which is written in clear, stripped down and direct language: "A good poem // should smell of tea. // Or of raw earth and freshly cut wood." ("I Have Three Poems"). Even when writing about love, Hague uses familiar, everyday metaphors, for example, urging his lover journey into sleep with him like "two bits // Of raw dough into the // Good oven // That we call night." ("The Dream")

Poets Robert Bly and Robert Hedin have both translated Hague into English before, in three separate volumes. Here they successfully join forces to introduce readers to a range of Hauge's work. Although Hague demurs in "Leaf Huts and Snow Houses," "These poems don't amount // to much, just // some words thrown together // at random," his sharp observations, attention to detail, and ability to reveal the miraculous under the surface of the every day make this quiet, subtle work a rich and rewarding experience.

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