Welcome, to this, our second issue of The Copenhagen Review.

The presiding spirits from the living past are Henrik Steffens, Novalis and Coleridge.

Thus this issue is, in some ways,  an “historical issue”.  And yet we bring you, as well,  three poets of our time, Lene Henningsen from Denmark, Medbh McGuckian from Ireland and Jon Eirik Lundberg from Norway. 

And please note: The Copenhagen Review is now accepting contributions for our next issue. Remember the texts should be written in either English, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian or German. And they should not be too long. We encourage writers to write in their own language. Send contributions to submission@copenhagenreview.com.

Steffens. Henrik, Heinrich or Heinrik. His elusiveness begins with his name. Norwegian or Danish or German? He was born on May 2, 1773 in Norway of Danish parentage.  Thus he was born exactly one year after Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg).

His genius was really a conversational genius; he was a seed thrower, an inspirer, a connector, a mercurial figure, weaving among giants, disappearing then into the obscurity of death. For after his death Henrik Steffens was utterly forgotten. And yet it was Steffens, of whom his cousin N.F.S. Grundtvig said, that if you want to understand the spiritual and intellectual life of Denmark, you have to go back to Steffens. He was a friend and colleague of both Novalis and Goethe and was greatly esteemed by Coleridge. And yet, nearly all of Steffens’ work is out of print.

Which is why we bring the passages we do.

We bring a translation from one of the books that fascinated Coleredge, a talk Steffens’ held for his university students on the subject of what a true university should be.

The spirit of Steffens is the spirit of absolute individual freedom. That will become clear to the reader. It is a spirit that is not wholly useless to our own times.

In addition to The University, we include two passages, in German, from Steffens’ memoires, Was Ich Erlebte (What I Experienced).The first is a description of Novalis. The second recounts an experience with the philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte.  We could have brought other interesting passages, his descriptions of  Goethe, Schelling, the Schlegels, or the tale of  how he, Professor Steffens, rallied the citizens of Halle to chase Napoleon all the way to Paris.

In addition to the passages we have selected by Henrik Steffens, we have selected some of the poetry of Novalis. We bring the first part of Novalis’ great poem Hymns To The Night, in English translation.

Thus we bring samplings of two significant individuals in the clustering of men and women in the years around 1800 in Jena.

For something extraordinary took place in Weimar and Jena around the final decade of the 1800th century. There are  places  that bring together a configuration of individuals, able to bring something healthy and inspiring into this world. In the case of Jena-Weimar, it was a world that included Hegel, Fichte, the Schlegels, Schleiermacher, Novalis, Steffens, Goethe, Schiller, Hölderlin, Dorothea Schlegel (Moses Mendelssohn’s daughter) Caroline Schlegel and many others. All of these people knew one another. They were all inspired by a common something. A spirit or inspiration difficult to describe and seldom mentioned.

War, in the form of Napoleon, came raging over them and many of these bearers of new ideas dispersed to other places, Berlin, Munich, Paris…to pick up the pieces and carry the work further. And what was the nature of their work? Let the reader find the answer if he wishes.

We bring you also something from our times:

We bring in Danish and English, the Danish poet Lene Henningsen’s crystalline meditations on a drawing of her compatriot, the graphic artist Birgitte Thorlacius.

Medbh McGuckian is one of Ireland’s true gifts to the world. We include three new poems by her and send her warm greetings from Copenhagen.

Jon Eirik Lundberg is a Norwegian poet living in Denmark. We bring you his incisive poem Danmarks Radio, in Danish.

Lene Henningen had an interesting conversation with Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes on the subject of poetry and music. She has worked her reflections on this  exchange into a new form of interview. We bring her Reflections About Poetry and Music in both English and Danish.

So this is what we have brought you. We thank you for your encouraging responses to our new venture, The Copenhagen Review

The Editor