Born and raised in a home frequented by known writers, politicians and artists , it did not feel unnatural to a small boy like Piet Hein to express himself lyrically. In letters to his mother from the 1920s and 30s, we can now find the seeds he sowed for his later writing.
Piet Hein began with longish poems that drew heavily for inspiration on Johs. V. Jensen, who was a friend of the Hein family. Later, however, he switched to his own poetic form – the world-famous Grook. As a reviewer has since said, the Grooks were ‘Piet Hein’s gift to humanity’.
The Grooks first saw the light of day in ‘Politiken’ on 14 April 1940. They were enthusiastically received by the Danish people and subsequently appeared daily in Politiken’s column ‘Just Think’. In 1943, Piet Hein had to ‘go underground’, his writing being a contributory factor. He travelled to Argentina, but collections of Grooks continued to appear at Politiken’s printing house.
What does Grook (Danish: Gruk) mean? Johs. V. Jensen once said: ‘It is from the partridge that he got grook.’ Others insist that it must be a contraction of the words grin and suk (laugh and sigh). He himself felt that the word had come out of thin air. In English they were given the name Grooks and there are about 500 of them. The Grooks have been translated into a host of languages, the latest new collections to appear being in Swedish and Polish.
His poems have never made their mark in the same way as the Grooks have.
Piet Hein already began writing poetry as a child. Occasional poems for parties for friends and family, or for more serious events at his school, Metropolitanskolen. In his poetry Piet Hein reveals his love of science and his enthusiasm for simple, natural things. During the 1950s-1970s, Piet Hein wrote a number of ‘pièces d’occasion’ prologues for companies and associations, etc.