By Ditte Scharnberg
‘Chains can imprison a poet physically, restrict his movements and impose house arrest, but they can’t restrict his thoughts, tongue, words and poems’.
Those were the words from Dareen Tatour to the Danish Carl Scharnberg Foundation, when, in June 2017, we awarded her a prize – 2000 euros – to support her fight for poetry, art and justice.
All of us in the foundation feel strongly about encouraging Dareen to keep on fighting. And we are quite sure that had he still been alive, my father Carl Scharnberg (1930-1995) – poet and political activist – surely would have been among her supporters and surely would have printed her poems to be read in Denmark.
(Here is a video from the ceremony.)
Who was the poet Carl Scharnberg?
My father was called the working man’s poet. Not without cause. For a couple of generations he was traveling all over the country, giving talks and reciting from his own literary works at trade union meetings and at the schools of the labour movement. About thirty books were produced on the way: novels, shorts stories, essays and collections of poems.
Actually he performed the unique trick of getting the man on the shop floor to enjoy poetry – Carl’s poetry anyhow – because his poems are down-to-earth and at the same time sensitive, committed and engaging.
To choose – it’s not to yield and submit
and gently lower one’s voice,
or to give in to pretty words
avoiding a troublesome choice.
To choose is more than taking a risk,
much more than a question af trade.
To choose is in spite of your innermost fear
to do what you want to evade.
(A poem by Carl Scharnberg)
The fight for peace
Influenced by his experience as a child at the Second World War, Carl Scharnberg became a political activist, especially interested in the struggle for world peace. He founded the Danish campaign against nuclear weapons in the 1960’s – which succeeded to keep Denmark free of nuclear weapons on its ground. Through the rest of his life, he always supported the wide range of movements for peace in the world – with his poems and by standing up as a speaker at demonstrations.
“Unofficial points of view”
From 1968 and until his death Carl Scharnberg was supplying a wide circle of trade union periodicals and grass-root publications with a private and independent ‘press service’. In close cooperation with well-known writers, poets and illustrators he spread a monthly issue of articles, mini-posters, etc. all over the country, provided with a general permission to reprint and copy. It was called ‘unofficial points of view’.
A foundation for solidarity, human rights and peace
After my father’s death in 1995, many people in the trade unions, with whom he was working for decades, decided to build a foundation to support artists and activists working in his spirit. Our family, my brother, mother and me, were very moved by the idea, and have supported it ever since.
During more than twenty years the foundation every year awards prizes and grants. The prizes are announced in June, related to the day of Carl’s birth. Till now we recognized and supported this way the contributions of 73 different people, groups and movements working for solidarity, human rights and peace.
The Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour is now among those brave and strong people. All of us must do whatever we can to support her!