philosophy of a close link between the subjectivity of
the fine arts and the objective world of science made Piet
Hein (1905-1996) one of the most original Danes
of the 20th century. P. Hein was indeed a manysided man
in the best sense: he was philosopher, mathematician, designer,
scientist, game inventor and author! He also created a
new form of poetry he called 'Grook' ("gruk" in
Danish). Piet defined art as a way of thinking about all
subjects, so for him 'being a poet' was only one outlet
for his astonishing creativity. He asserted in his philosophical
writings that the great cultural divide was not between
the haves and the have-nots, but between
the knows and the know-nots.
Hein wrote over 10,000 of grooks, most in Danish or English,
published in more than 60 books. Some say that the name
is short for 'GRin & sUK' ("laugh & sigh",
in Danish), but Piet said he felt that the word had come
out of thin air. His grooks or gruks first started to appear
in the daily newspaper "Politiken" in April 1940
- shortly after the Nazi occupation - under the Old Norse
pseudonym 'Kumbel' meaning "tombstone". In more
exact terms, grooks are small aphoristic verses characterized
by irony, paradox, brevity, precise use of language, sophisticated
rhythms and rhymes, revealing in a minimum of words and
with a minimum of lines some basic truth about the human
condition. Grooks were meant as a spirit-building... In
fact, those light, tiny poems - that sound almost like
mental improvisations - exorcice the feeling of void or
anxiety arising from our unquiet modern times.
Hein's many intriguing creations are the games of Hex,
Tangloids, Morra, Tower, Polytaire, TacTix, Pyramystery,
and the Soma
cube. He advocated the use of the super ellipse curve
(see the superellipse opposite along with its math formula)
in city planning, furniture making and other realms. He
also invented a perpetual calendar called the Astro Calendar.
collected below just some of the thousands of Grooks that
Piet wrote in his lifetime (all text and illustrations
are owned by Piet Hein's estate). To end with an anecdotal
fact... Curiously enough, Piet Hein was a direct descendant
of the 17th Century Dutch
privateer of the same name!
by Piet Hein
ROAD TO WISDOM
The road to wisdom?
-- Well, it's plain
and simple to express:
and err again
on a starlit night,
stand on your head,
leave your feet dangling
outwards into space,
and let the starry
firmament you tread
be, for the moment,
your elected base.
Feel Earth's colossal weight
of ice and granite,
of molten magma,
water, iron, and lead;
and briefly hold
this strangely solid planet
your strangely solid head.
PARADOX OF LIFE
A bit beyond perception's reach
I sometimes believe I see
that Life is two locked boxes, each
containing the other's key.
you feel how depressingly
T. T. T.
Put up in a place
where it's easy to see
the cryptic admonishment
T. T. T.
slowly you climb,
it's well to remember that
Things Take Time!
their expert fun
just how nothing
can be done.
it seems, is the popular name
for milliards and milliards and milliards
of particles playing their infinite game
of billiards and billiards and billiards.
past, -- well, it's just like
our Great-Aunt Laura,
who cannot or will not perceive
that though she is welcome,
and though we adore her,
yet now it is time to leave.
and who could doubt it,
if we have
no doubt about it.
MEETING THE EYE
that it suits your book
to be a bit cleverer
than you look.
Observe that the easiest
method by far
is to look a bit stupider
than you are.
you're called on to make up your mind,
and you're hampered by not having any,
the best way to solve the dilemma, you'll find,
is simply by spinning a penny.
No -- not so that chance shall decide the affair
while you're passively standing there moping;
but the moment the penny is up in the air,
you suddenly know what you're hoping.
IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN
poet should be of the
old-fahioned meaningless brand:
obscure, esoteric, symbolic,
-- the critics demand it;
so if there's a poem of mine
that you do understand
I'll gladly explain what it means
till you don't understand it.
(A holiday thought)
old clock used to tell the time
and subdivide diurnity;
but now it's lost both hands and chime
and only tells eternity.
a thing you do
now or never --
which do you?
A MOMENT'S THOUGHT
there's a lifetime
in a second.
the small things bind him
leaves the great
undone behind him.
THOSE WHO KNOW
Those who always
know what’s best
a universal pest.
No cow's like a horse,
and no horse like a cow.
That's one similarity
Pills are useful
too many pill.
The man who is only a poet is not even that.
concave or -vex,
so whatever you dream
will be something with sex.
try to take
the very smallest
piece of cake
how can it also
that that's the one
that's left for me?
have fallen through,
our airiest castles
because of lines
we neatly drew
and later neatly
if you believe
life favours those
who aren't naive.
an art of knowing when.
Never try to guess.
Toast until it smokes and then
twenty seconds less.