Gustaf Munch-Petersen

Gustaf Munch-Petersen
  • Born: 18. February 1912
  • Died: 2. April 1938
  • Lived in: Denmark
  • Wrote in: Danish, Swedish, English

Gustaf Munch-Petersen was a Danish writer and painter. He wrote surreal prose-poems, considered groundbreaking in his time, which have inspired many later writers.

He remained largely inrecognized in his own time, simply because he was ahead of his time. In his writing, he discarded common grammar, phrasing and - most noticeably - punctuation. This alienated a lot of potential readers at the time, and while his first collection (The Naked Human) wasn't an altogether failure, the subsequent two sold significantly fewer numbers, the last of which was hardly acknowledged as existing at all.

After a few years on hiatus from writing, he returned with his last collection (Nineteen Poems) which is a sober and much more realistic depiction of the world - a major step down from his surrealist past. This however became his last poetry collection, as he ran away to fight in the Spanish Civil War not long afterwards, where he were to die less than a year later, aged merely 26.

Apart from poetry, he also engaged in pictorial art and wrote a single novel (Simon Begin's) which didn't receive much attention.

He also wrote a poetry collection in English (Black God's Stone) which was never published, and one in Swedish (The Sun Shows) in which features a poem dedicated to Edith Södergran whom he considered a source of inspiration. Although his Swedish poetry collection isn't included on this site since it wasn't published in his lifetime, I am including this one poem here, since it is about her. The poem is called 'It sighs through the forest' and goes as follows:

 

a droplet in the forest will shape everything in its own image –

a droplet in the forest

found itself truer than everything –

 

the droplet of the forest grasped the lyre,

greater than the world –:

only this is fate,

to find oneself most beautiful,

most true,

most pure –

 

everything I shall shape in my image –

everything shall

be the most magnificent of all –

higher, higher hangs the lyre,

greater than the world –

tremble, o world, for your fate

 

tremble, o world –

the creation comes –

a droplet in the forest becomes truer than everything –

Naked Human

The Lowest Country

Towards Jerusalem

Nineteen Poems