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“It’s the idea that you have a seed – out of which the rest grows”. Meet Ursula Andkjær Olsen, considered one of the most important poets of her generation, writing with inspiration from classical music. In her poetry, she mirrors the progress she sees in Nature, music and in architecture, unfolding in texts like tentacles and threads, which relate to other texts. “Things become meaningful because of the relations they are in,” she says.
Ursula Andkjær Olsen is considered one of the great poetic voices of Danish literature. She played the piano as a child and the musical approach formed her own way of writing poetry: “I started writing a form of poetry without knowing what poetry looked like. But I knew how music worked with form. I thought in terms of motifs, just like you have in music.” The idea that you can work with motifs that expand in time, was her approach to poetry rather “than the European and modernism tradition consisting of concentrates where you try to unite everything”. Ursula Andkjær Olsen’s poetry has “a different approach in which the poem continues to grow” working with large formats as in classical music. “I have always been interested in writing books that unfold and had an architectural structure or a musical progress,” she says.
“I always want to say everything. And that’s difficult,” Andkjær Olsen admits. The world doesn’t consist of closed units but of things that could be units that always are in relation to other things. If you want to describe it you need to include that relational aspect and the tentacles and threads,” she says. “A large format means that you work with relations. It’s one thing that I come from a musical approach – but it’s also found in network theories. Things become meaningful because of the relations they are in and the way they are repeated and tweaked every time you encounter them. The interplay of relations. The texts aren’t closed but send tentacles out to the other texts, and that is how I believe with all my heart that the world is.”
Feelings that Ursula Andkjær Olsen expresses in her poetry are “bad feelings, like anger.” “Anger can be destructive”, she says, but “anger also has the force for change”, as she puts it. She sees anger also as a political force where “it’s reasonable anger” “and that force for change has to be followed and used,” she says.
Ursula Andkjær Olsen was born in 1970 in Copenhagen, Denmark. She has a degree in musicology and philosophy from the University of Copenhagen and Technische Universität Berlin. Andkjær Olsen made her literary debut in 2000 and has since published twelve collections of poetry in addition to several dramatic texts and libretti for operas. Ursula Andkjær Olsen has received numerous grants and prizes for her work, including the award Montanas Litteraturpris for ‘Det 3. årtusindes hjerte’, 2012, (‘Third-Millennium Heart’), which was translated into English by Katrine Øgaard Jensen in 2018.
Poems read by Ursula Andkjær Olsen in this video are from the collection ‘Third-Millennium Heart,’ translated by Katrine Øgaard Jensen.
Ursula Andkjær Olsen was interviewed by Kasper Bech Dyg in Amager Common, Copenhagen, in September 2020.
Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard
Edited and produced by Kasper Bech Dyg
Copyright Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2020
Supported by C.L. Davids Fond og Samling
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