Klaus Høeck: Legacy

Klaus Høeck
KH Foto
Poetry, Gyldendal, 2015

The nominating committee for the Nordic Council Literature Prize nominates Klaus Høeck’s poetry collection Legacy. This collection of poems with its unique poetic form, its cornucopia of styles, moods, perspectives, motives, and themes, stands out from the rest of this year’s literature. It is the culmination of Høeck’s writing career, one that began half a century ago, in 1966. For decades, Høeck’s wide range of great works have been making him one of the most important writers in modern Danish literature.

The title Legacy intimates that this monumental 592-page work is a look back on a long life and on the poet’s relationships with relatives, partners, friends, and fellow poets. In terms of its composition, the collection is structured in three long sections titled “Facebook/Selfies”, “Instagram”, and “Linkedin/Updates”. The first narrates a family album, the last the poet’s writings, while the middle section includes observations of day-to-day life, philosophical reflections, memory fragments, absurd gags, and biting comments on the present day. On the whole it is Høeck’s trademark to incorporate everything into his collections. His poetry ranges from ceremonious praise to sneering screeds, from poetological reasoning to the sensory perception of everyday life, and from original reflections to incomparably funny forays. Legacy is an excellent example of an aesthetic that raises objections to the idea that poetry should be understood and reduced to a mere collection of beautiful words and striking metaphors.

Høeck’s poetry has a power of fascination that is frequently overwhelming as the sparks fly between elements not normally associated with each other. Sporadic observations and broad existential perspectives, the ugly and the beautiful, and the prosaic and the ceremonious all unite in Høeck’s poems, in which unique verses of five and seven syllables seem both enigmatic and welcoming at the same time, sucking the reader through the throng of broken haiku-sonnet-like stanzas.

Høeck’s poetry deals with everything. There are poems about poetry, sport, politics, art, food, spirits, illness, love, death, religion, chess, cats, friends, work, clothing, and horticulture – to name but a few. And these topics are often mixed in the most surprising of ways. One wonderfully philosophical poem links computer technology, chess, and poetry, for instance. Another make associations to personal reflections on life as a whole from an old photo. In this way, Høeck’s masterful collection spans the entirety of life with all its diversity of styles, moods, perspectives, themes, and attitudes.