Poetry for harassed Liberal Democrats

Call us quirky, but a touch of culture, and a moment to reflect never does any harm. So, when Liberal Democrat Voice received this contribution, we wondered where it fitted. But then, why should a political website be entirely serious?…

In a mad world, remember Denmark’s Piet Hein. Theoretical physicist, poet, wartime resistance activist, mathematician and simply a human being in all its warmest glory. His short poems (Grooks) have a haiku-like quality, reflecting on the simple complexities of life, and as a consequence of real politics as it hits real people. I have cherished these gems for a long time, and wonder if other Liberal Democrats might find them helpful.

His first ever Grook was published in the newspaper Politiken under the Nazi occupation of Denmark. It was

Losing one glove
is certainly painful,
but nothing
compared to the pain,
of losing one,
throwing away the other,
and finding
the first one again

The metaphor for the time was that losing freedom was painful for Danes. But don’t throw away your dignity by collaboration or you will suffer in yourself when freedom returns. Or as that fictional Dane Polonius was made to remark “this above all to thine own self be true”. Now that is something to reflect on, as a minority party in coalition. Whatever we have to do in the short term, let’s make sure we keep our gloves together…

And then there is the law of unintended consequences;

On Problems

Our choicest plans
have fallen through,
our airiest castles
tumbled over,
because of lines
we neatly drew
and later neatly
stumbled over.

or even;

The Road to Wisdom

The road to wisdom?
— Well, it’s plain
and simple to express:
and err
and err again
but less
and less
and less.

But we are in government to make a difference, to do something not just to be something. So we need to face up to the fact that;


Problems worthy of attack,
prove their worth by hitting back

And we certainly have the bruises to prove that one.

There are apparently ten thousand of these Grooks to discover, many of them originally written in English.

Are there any other Piet Hein enthusiasts out there? Any other Grooks for comfort or warning to our political and human situations? The small Grooks at any rate were intended to be in the public domain and used by anyone who felt moved to do so. Shamefully, all twenty volumes of his collected Grook poems are out of print, but the last word, of course, goes to Piet.

Living is…

Living is
a thing you do
now or never —
which do you?

As they say in Danish, Tak for ordet…

* Edis Bevan is chair of Milton Keynes Liberal Democrats.

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  • Call me a pretentious, wishy-washy, bleeding-heart liberal but I really enjoyed those! Tak!

  • Richard Dean 29th Feb '12 - 10:12am

    Ode to an Upcoming Vote, alternatatively entitled Let’s Look at the Evidence

    is bad, but
    is worse

  • Lorna Dupre 29th Feb '12 - 1:43pm

    Thank you for those; a different way of expressing an issue can result in a different way of seeing and learning.

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