Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Postcards From Denmark

Did I ever tell you about the time I took part in an exhibition at a museum in Europe? It all started in the summer of '82 on a train ride one afternoon while returning to Copenhagen from the castle at Hillerod. My Danish friend Peter had talked me in to going to Copenhagen in the first place, insisting that I stay at his brother's who was leaving for a trip to Africa. How could I come to Denmark and omit its capital, where 1 out of every 5 Danes lived, he reminded me. I was instructed on where to stand to hitchhike from Odense to Nyborg where the train is put in the belly of a ferry and then streamed across a channel. It was on that train from Hillerod that I met the director of Moesgard Museum. When I told him I was an American freelance photographer he asked to see my work. We made an appointment to meet at a cafe the next day. After seeing the portfolio he said, "I want you to be in an exhibition we are planning two summers from now which will trace the migration of five Danish families to America beginning in the late 1800s down to the present generations. You could photograph Denmark in the meantime and exhibit your work in the show. You can stay at the museum in a space for guest and naturally we would pay you". I literally had to pinch myself. Two years was a long time to stick around Europe waiting for the career chance of a lifetime but I managed! The exhibition was worth it. I presented 150 images mounted on white paper to look like your typical postcard. They allowed me to use photographs from all over Europe. I stayed in the Manor House for three days. The exhibition took place on grounds that included a prehistoric museum with archaeological and ethnographic collections, the most famous being the two finds from the Iron Age - the Grauballe man, the only completely preserved bog body, and impressive sacrifices of weapons from Illerup Adal ( One of the most memorable days of my life was the one when the posters advertising my role in the exhibition arrived from the printers. I was summoned into the directors office and still can feel the touch of that brown paper as I peeled it back to reveal the B/W poster of a shot I'd made of my own reflection in a mirror at a juice bar in Morocco. Best of all, I got to borrow a bicycle and peddled the 7km into Arhus to distribute my own posters to the pubs and art galleries. I even ran into the Danish Queen as she was getting into her car to drive (unescorted) back to the summer palace I'd passed on my way into town. Yeah, those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end, we'd sing and dance forever and a day...

Deliciously.At Random

Listen. Here's another scenario.

Maybe if we sit long enough daylight
will gradually fade. We
could use night time's neon as a
backdrop. We could let
our minds become one with sky
spies & pretend we're on
a journey in a convoy headed for
the spice islands. We'll
discard our chlorinated lunches or
love stuck to the bathroom
floor. My tongue could cruise around
your navel or the edge of
an empire. We'll learn to think
enormous without even going
to the library. And we can do it all
at this little round table
with a yellow canvas umbrella
sticking out, confident it
won't remember a thing.

This poem first appeared in print at: "Remark"
Issue 36 August 2005. Online at:
Copyright 2007 by Maurice Oliver. All Rights Reserved.
Also visit his literary E-Zine at:

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