April 27, 2023

Pia Juul (Denmark) 1962-2020

Pia Juul (Denmark)

Pia Juul was born in Korsør, Denmark on May 30th, 1962. Her parents were both teachers and wrote books for children. She graduated with her General Certificate from Hobro Gymnasium in 1981. 
      Her first poetry was published in the journal Hvedekorn two years later, and in 1985 her first collection of poems, levende og lukket (living and locked) was published by Tiderne Skifter. In 1987 her second volume, i brand måske (on fire perhaps) was published, and Forgjort (Bewitched) followed two years later. She later published two futher volumes, En død mands nys (A dead man’s sneeze) and sagde jeg, siger jeg (I said, I say). In 1988 she was awarded the State Foundation for the Arts three-year grant.
     Along with her publishing Juul was active in the literary world as co-editor of the literary magazine Den Blå Port (1993-1995) and as a board member of the Association of Danish Fiction Authors. In 1996-1998 she was a member of the triumvirate committee of the State Foundation for the Arts. She has also written dramas, radio plays, short stories, and a novel Skaden (Magpie). Her translations from English and Swedish include Ted Hughes, Michael Cunningham and Michael Redhill.
     During the first decade of the new millennium, Juul published collections of short stories, fictions, and dramas such as Mit forfærdelige ansigt (2001), Gespenst & andre spi (2002), Opgang (2002), Jeg vil hellere dø (2003), Dengang med hunden (2005), Mordet på Halland (2009), and Af sted, til hvile (2012).
     For seventeen years Juul lived in Copenhagen, before moving with her husband and two daughters in Kragevig in the southern part of Sjælland (Zealand) in what she described as a forest.
     Juul writes of her drama, Spiritus: “I believe it’s possible to create a universe in any genre—as long as it has it’s own logic, I don’t think it needs to be explained.” Her poetry is characterized by an almost “reckless” imagination and an emphasis on meter and irony.
     She died at the age of 58 in 2020.


levende og lukket (Copenhagen: Tiderne Skifter, 1985); I brand måske (Copenhagen: Tiderne Skifter, 1987); Forgjort (Copenhagen: Nansensgadae Antikvariat, 1989); En død mans nys (Copenhagen: Tiderne Skifter, 1993); sgde jeg, siger jeg (Copenhagen: Tiderne Skifter, 1999); Helt i skoven (2005); Radioteatere (2010); Avuncular (Copenhagen: Tiderne Skifter, 2014)

From Avuncular

What is an ‘onkel’

A Danish word

look it up

but wait a bit before looking it up

let me feel something first

onkel’s far removed from all definitions

a longing for a moment feeling safe in

childhood but not a person a state is

what’s contained in the word, perhaps an o

maybe an letter o pronounced å. Oh Åh.

     Oh you onkel.

Oh my onkel. Åh ånkel. Mon oncle Jules,

     a title that occurs

to me, Uncle Tom, Uncle Anders, Uncle Sam

     and all the

other uncles one knows without knowing

     them, also my

own uncles and yours, but…

(I’ll say it straight away:

comfy uncle

the most uncomfortable word in my dictionary,

closely followed by: playful uncle)

… but it’s not only childhood, the safe feeling

     of childhood

isn’t what it is

Eastern window-panes afar* each time I read

     this I sing I think

Åh, onkel Jeppe, but without thinking it

     even so , for he’s

not my uncle though I don’t call anyone anything just for

fun, but Flare up in the gloaming, it’s the

     uncle-like feeling I’ve mentioned

not the longing but the fulfilment of it, a full and round

moment as round as an uncle, and what’s more

     I don’t know if he borrowed

aunt Agnes’ money, and that’s uncle-like although

     he was younger than

she was and had this large poet’s head of hair,

      Moorland ponds like tiny stars

Catch the sunset’s homing.

Out in the twilight of the garden I see a yellow

      leaf fall to the ground,

it floats rather than falls, it takes its time



* Quotation of last verse of Jeppe Aakjær’s poem ‘Aften’.


From Avuncular

Translated by John Irons

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