Søren Ulrik Thomsen

Søren Ulrik Thomsen was born in Kalundborg, Denmark, in 1956, and spent his childhood on the Stevns peninsula, south of Copenhagen. In 1972 he moved to the Danish capital.  Ever since his debut, »City Slang« (1981), he has published five more collections of poetry, among them »Hjemfalden« (1991; Engl: Fallen) and »Det værste og det bedste« (2002; Engl: The Worst and the Best), as well as the critical writings »Mit lys brænder« (1985; Engl: My Light Burns), »En dans på gloser« (1996; Engl: A Dance on Words), and, together with Frederik Stjernfelt, »Kritik af den negative opbyggelighed« (2005; Engl: Critique of the Negative Edifyingness).  In 1998 Jørgen Leth’s wide-sweeping filmic portrait of the author came out under the title »Jeg er levende« (Engl: I am Alive).

»When I start a new book«, writes Søren Ulrik Thomsen in »En dans på gloser«, »I unpack the surgical instruments I have used until now, and learn that they have become rusty in the interim, for they’ve been moulded by my own handling of a specific material, and they are not designed for contact with another.«  The true craft of the poet – as Thomsen says – lies in fitting each theme into its according form.  In his own poetry it becomes evident that for Thomsen a poem moves within an electric force field between seemingly irrelevant »song« and relevant »theory«: Thomsen writes enchanting musical texts which reflect themselves as such. He also focuses on extremely different spheres of experience.  »City Slang«, for instance, plumbs the relationship between body and city, while »Ukendt under den samme måne« (1982; Engl: Unknown Under the Same Moon) attempts to comprehend the world of the mystical, erotic, ecstatic – and »Hjemfalden« aims at grappling with the fundamentally human, the conditions of our existence, and of poetry.  Especially of note is his most recently published volume, of large format and illustrated, entitled »Det værtse og det bedste«. Inspired by Charles Bukowski’s poem »the worst and the best«, Thomsen enumerates – in twenty-one texts each of twenty-seven lines – what he considers the »best« and the »worst«, often simple things such as a certain seat in a certain café in Copenhagen, or the death of a cat.  Here emerges in impressive ways the very features for which Thomsen’s work is distinguished: formal precision, a clear and balanced musical language and an extremely personal perspective which expands ever more into the universal and also the poetic.

The author has also dedicated himself to translation and together with Jørgen Mejer rendered Sophocles’ »King Oedipus« (1990) and Euripides’ »Phoenician Women« (1998) into Danish. Thomsen has been awarded numerous national literature prizes and grants and has been a member of the Danish Academy since 1995.  He lives in Copenhagen.

Translator: Angelika Gundlach; Ursula Schmalbruch

© international literature festival berlin