Kim Simonsen

Kim Simonsen

Kim Simonsen

Photo: Thomas Koba
Kim Simonsen: Lívfrøðiliga samansetingin í einum dropa av havvatni minnir um blóðið í mínum æðrum. Poetry collection, Verksmiðjan, 2023. Nominated for the 2024 Nordic Council Literature Prize.



The infinite sea and the individual 

The poetry collection Lívfrøðiliga samansetingin í einum dropa av havvatni minnir um blóðið í mínum æðrum (in English: “The Biological Composition of a Drop of Seawater Resembles the Blood in my Veins”) by the Faroese author, publisher, curator, and academic, Kim Simonsen, is a quiet work, written shortly after the passing of the poet’s father. In the wake of this event, the poetic persona walks around in the landscape of childhood, an unnamed Faroese village, and processes the grief.  


The increasing light of the winter landscape, the changing weather, storms, frost, and fog, envelop the poems and unite them with nature’s cyclical movements, small and large. The sea and the waves and the droplets, the sea foam, the frozen slippery roads, the animals’ breaths – visible in the frosty weather – all evoke connections, continuous changes, and emergences.  


In the first poem of the collection, these processes are described as an extension of the father’s death: 


“This morning my father died, 

he sailed his whole life 

on the world’s oceans. 

Now the waves are breaking 

like waves have been breaking 

upon waves. 

In this way the waves will 

embrace the shore 

the land 


that washes 




The father as a sailor is a familiar figure in Faroese literature. Similarly, the motif of the relatives left behind on the shore, gazing out towards the sea, is such a classic in Faroese literature and art that it’s become a cliché. The figure and motif are naturally rooted in the tragic fate that historically befell many sailors, but in Simonsen’s work, there’s nothing to suggest that the poet’s father died at sea. He is simply dead. The poetic persona has outlived his father, and one senses a kind of sad triumph in this simple observation. The son survived his father. The child his parent. It’s just as it should be. But it’s in this detail that the connection between the father and the sea in the poetry collection breaks with Faroese tradition. There’s nothing heroic or sentimental about the father’s death. It’s barely described. His life is also hardly described. That’s why the poems are read with an overwhelming sense of relief. 

The sea gives, and the sea takes, it’s often said with a kind of laconic fatalism, but in these poems, the sea’s generosity and greed are neither laconic nor fatal; rather, it’s a sovereign authority, life-giving and inspiring, and full of insight.  


A complex temporal understanding runs through the poems, consistently oscillating between the linear and the cyclical, between life and death, blood and the sea, between biology and philosophy. The poems are often diminishing, quite literally in the length, rhythm, and sound of the lines. At the end of each poem, there arises a sort of accumulation of echoes, which paradoxically does not culminate in a resounding silence, but rather gathers into an insightful resonance. That’s how the poems are read, and that’s how the pages are turned, sonorously and rhythmically, continuously and cyclically.  

“We are humans 

but resemble other living things 

without human bodies. 

We are humans, 

while the withered grass 

billows in the wind 

and we simply rejoice 

over being. 

We are humans, 

who wake up every morning 

with old memories 

and past dreams 

while we drink coffee.” 


Kim Simonsen has been active for more than 20 years, and his practice transcends literary genres and conventional academic and artistic fields. His earlier poetry collections, Hvat hjálpir einum menniskja at vakna hesumegin hetta áratúsind (2013) and Desembermorgun (2015), have both received critical acclaim. But with Lívfrøðiliga samansetingin í einum dropa av havvatni minnir um blóðið í mínum æðrum, Simonsen reaches a lyrical peak thus far.  


With this work, he’s managed to create a work and a language about grief and sorrowful father-son relationships that transcend the familial and the private, and never become either bitter or sentimental. It’s a strong eco-poetic work that allows the reader to accompany the poet in his quietly existential journey. Kim Simonsen’s Lívfrøðiliga samansetingin í einum dropa av havvatni minnir um blóðið í mínum æðrum is a consistent, wise, poetic, and impressively good poetry collection.