Saturday, September 5, 2009

Copenhagen, Denmark. 20 August, 2009

Björn and I took the quick train from Malmö to Copenhagen, going over the long bridge that now spans the two areas that used to be under one Danish rule. We switched trains and went further out to the home of the Danish Centre for Children’s Literature, which is connected to The Danish School of Education, University of Aarhus. After some scrabbling to find the right building (for it had been some time since Björn had been here), we were greeted by Nina Christensen, the Director, and by Anna Skyggebjerg, an expert on Danish nonsense and the fantastic, among other topics. Unfortunately, Line Beck Rasmussen, a PhD student who has also specialized in nonsense literature, was inconvenienced by the fact that she was about to burst with baby (and has since had a boy, congrats with hats!). The Danish Centre is an organization that wears many hats in terms of children’s literature—from running a library, to encouraging serious scholarship, to holding creative writing and author workshops. Our small party retired to a conference room, where I went through the goals of the Anthology, but it was a comfortable, casual atmosphere. I also learned that a student-run nonsense conference had taken place here in 2001, but I couldn’t divine much more about it. I suspect that Nina was reluctant to say more since, so I hear, all its participants have become arterial actuaries and, aside from a one-act, off-Broadway debut, have not been heard from since. After much conversation, but not even getting to my talk on Indian and otherly nonsense, we decided to break for lunch, which we had in the cafeteria nearby. When we returned, I launched into my talk on various kinds of nonsense, and Björn also added significantly in terms of Swedish material. Much conversation followed, and I was able to have both of them recite some folk rhymes. Nina actually read a Halfdan Rasmussen piece, which for copyright reasons I can’t yet post here, but Anna’s pieces are all below. The first one, which she was careful to point out as very, and originally, Danish, is “Ene mene,” from the collection of nursery rhymes, Nikke Nikke Nambo. One might, if one were feeling one's goats, compare this with the piece that Wim Tigges recited in Dutch, in Leiden. The next two are from the same book, both nursery rhymes. The first is “Tju bong,” the next, “Oppe pa altern,” I believe, in two different versions.

We went back to the library area, where we made some copies of texts and discussed what would happen next. Both Nina and Anna were amazingly generous in giving their time during this session, but also for offering to help with Danish material as we progress in our work for the Anthology. They also gave me a few other nonsensical names to follow up on.

Björn and I left and visited an exhibition of artfully composed pedagogical posters, that is, posters that had been made for and used in schools, going back many years. It was an interesting study of what was studied and how, and a window into the creation of Danish (and, partly, other Scandinavian) identity. Here is Björn, proudly displaying a poster he had in his room as a child.

We then began yet another walking tour, starting with a large fortress on the northeast side of town, near the statue of the Little Mermaid, diminutive and damp, by the sea. We walked south, around the coast and took in many of the sights of the town. In the Black Diamond, the impressive new wing of the national library, Björn caught this rare and candid shot of me, emerging from the bathroom, and, from the bathroom balcony, as I am wont to do, breaking into a rousing rendition of “Evita.”

Later, I caught this photo of Björn, with a björn (figure it out yet?).

Back in the center of town, we had a quick bite and a beer, and went back to Malmö, aloft on the wings of Danish nonsense.

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