Peter Laugesen – Walking the Tidelands

Step into a truly unique setting – the Wadden Sea – as seen through the eyes of an outstanding poet, Danish Peter Laugesen, who introduces us to the landscape and to his poetic approach, where “it’s a state of mind you enter. Like the Earth breathing.” And where writing poetry becomes a way “to imitate nature in her manner of operation,” as he says.

Listening to a recital by Dylan Thomas turned Peter Laugesen’s world upside down as a teenager: “It was the most profound experience. That was a huge opener. An ear-opener in this case. It turned everything in me upside down. Both mentally and bodily. I wasn’t the same afterwards. I really wasn’t.” Laugesen emphasizes the physical aspect of poetry and calls it “a bodily thing that takes over. It takes over your whole presence and turns it upside down so nothing is recognizable.” Peter Laugesen feels that “it’s something you need to feel at some time or other. No matter what you want to do, you have to experience it.”

The interview takes place at a beach in the Wadden Sea in Western Denmark at the island of Fanø and the poet parallels writing about language with landscape painting, which is a genre in itself. When walking you reflect “that’s 10,000 or 100,000 or millions of years that we’re walking around in. Including this landscape. It gives you a sense of time. What time is.”

“Language as a landscape is the basic image in my writing. I write in the landscape of language. And like a geological landscape, language is huge when you get into it and see how it expands in every direction.” “What I like about the Wadden Sea and areas like this is the great monotony in it, but when you walk in it, it’s full of unpredictable details.”

“Ideally, writing the poem isn’t work. It’s just something that you’re compelled to do, so you do it. It’s related to Eastern philosophy. Japanese, Chinese, Zen-like philosophy. All we’re meant to do is to sit still, breathe and stare into space. And sooner or later, we realize what the point is.”

“The form is the essential part of the poem. You can give something a form that allows it to stand alone so others can view it or read it.” “It’s a possibility that everyone is familiar with from early childhood. It’s how children learn to talk and how fantastic and wonderful language is. And what a plastic feeling it gives of being present in the world. It’s a fantastic experience to give that to someone so they’re thrown back to the original experience we each have.”

“Being a living being in the present. Forget the present. It’s right here and now. You can get that knowledge from a poem,” Peter Laugesen says. “Writing poetry and reading the poetry of others is about getting the feeling that my life or life in general isn’t meaningless. It makes sense of the realization that I find it meaningful to be where I am now. When I read other people’s poetry, I sense that others feel the same way.” “The work and not the form is the important part. The process should be ongoing and not only for me but for everything and the sea that ebbs and flows. It’s neither hopeful or not hopeful. It just is. It exists and I exist. That’s the way it is.”

Peter Laugesen was interviewed by Christian Lund on the island of Fanø in September 2020. The poems read in the video are from his book Vadehave (Walking the Tidelands), 2020, translated by Susanna Nied.

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