Jan Erik Vold was born in Oslo in 1939. In the 1960s he studied languages and literature at the universities of Oslo, Uppsala and Santa Barbara. He published his first collection of poetry in 1965, and has since then displayed a wide scope of activities. He is appreciated as an essay writer and a debater on cultural questions and has initiated a number of crucial debates on poetry and politics. As a poet he emphasises oral performance and gathers a good audience whenever he is reading. Vold has also published a number of records in close co-operation with well known jazz musicians, among them Chet Baker and Bill Frisell.
In Norway, Jan Erik Vold is the poet. In the 1960s, he was the one to bring new life into Norwegian poetry. He was important in the so-called Profil circle, which, in the student magazine Profil, called to account the esoteric and abstract aestheticism which the circle claimed ruled Norwegian literature. Poets and prose writers in the new generation gave their books a more playful shape, open to international directions.
As for Jan Erik Vold, he turned towards the USA. Through his interest in jazz, he became aware of poets belonging to the American Beat generation, and like the Beat poets, he too developed a feeling for the Zen-Buddhist attitude towards life and poetry of the East.
Vold's first works of poetry are characterised by the fact that he manages to give internal images a concrete basis. Although his four opening books might be called experimental in a Norwegian context, we find everyday, simple situations and language.
His great breakthrough came in 1968 with the collection of poetry Mor Godhjertas glade versjon. Ja (The Happy Version of Mother Kind-Heart. Yes). In long poems, free of metaphors, he describes what is close. He doesn't conjure up an idyllic scene; rather he puts emphasis on everyday phenomena, together with exuberant joy at his dialogue with the city and its inhabitants. The distinctive stamp of these poems is also the oral diction of the poet; there are poems with rhythm and appeal, and they provided Jan Erik Vold a large and loyal audience.
His next collection, kykelipi (1969), presented a nonsense poem, and many found this so provoking that they began opposing modern poetry in the newspapers. kykelipi contains black humour and the grotesque, but still the book holds open the door to a linguistic and emotional connection between people.
Vold published four collections of poetry in the 1970s. spor, snø (track, snow; 1970) is a collection of minimalist poems in the tradition of the haiku, and it aroused an interest for poetry of the East in Norway. sirkel, sirkel. Boken om prins Adrians reise (circle, circle. The Book about the Journey of Prince Adrian; 1979) is an extensive collection of poetry describing a journey from Oslo through Russia to Japan, further across the Pacific to the USA, and, as a completion of the circle, back from New York to Oslo. The collection reflects an internal process which goes on within the traveller.
Sorgen. Sangen. Veien. (The Sorrow. The Song. The Way.; 1987) and En som het Abel Ek (Alone. Abel Ek; 1988) are darker, more existential collections focusing on closeness, sorrow and death. Yet En som het Abel Ek has a lighter note, and it emphasises that living through sorrow can open a path to joy. Both collections show the simple, dialogic and anti-metaphorical expression of Jan Erik Vold, an expression which is mathematically worked out and well accomplished.
With Elg (Elk; 1989) he published his most extrovert and popular collection, in which his political engagement across all ideologies came forth. Here, we find poems of malice and jabs at established politicians, as well as a well-worded anxiety about Norway losing its identity.
Jan Erik Vold introduced an intuitive and global poetry in his collections Tolv meditasjoner (Twelve Meditations; 2002) and Drømmemakeren sa (The Dreammaker Said; 2004). His latest collection, Store hvite bok å se (Big White Book to See), which was published in 2011, continues in this vein.
The translations of Jan Erik Vold's work have been published with the financial support of NORLA (Norwegian Literature Abroad, Fiction and Non-Fiction).
mellom speil og speil, Gyldendal, Oslo, 1965
blikket, Kommet Forlag, Oslo, 1966
HEKT, Gyldendal, Oslo, 1966
fra rom til rom SAD & CRAZY, Gyldendal, Oslo, 1967
Mor Godhjertas glade versjon. Ja (The Happy Version of Mother Kind-Heart. Yes), Gyldendal, Oslo, 1968
kykelipi, Gyldendal, Oslo, 1969
spor, snø (track, snow ), Gyldendal, Oslo, 1970
Bok 8: LIV (Book 8: LIFE), Gyldendal, Oslo, 1973
BusteR brenneR, Gyldendal, Oslo, 1976
S, Gyldendal, Oslo, 1978
sirkel sirkel: boken om prins Adrians reise (circle, circle. The Book about the Journey of Prince Adrian), Gyldendal, Oslo, 1979
Sorgen. Sangen. Veien (The Sorrow. The Song. The Way), Gyldendal, Oslo, 1987
En som het Abel Ek (Alone. Abel Ek), Gyldendal, Oslo, 1988
Elg (Elk), Gyldendal, Oslo, 1989
IKKE : skillingstrykk fra nittitallet (NOT. Verses from the Nineties), Gyldendal, Oslo, 1993
En sirkel is (A Circle Ice), Gyldendal, Oslo, 1993
Kalenderdikt (Calenderpoems), Gyldendal, Oslo, 1995
I vektens tegn : 777 dikt, antologi (Under the sign of Libra. 777 Poems), Gyldendal, Oslo, 2000
Tolv meditasjoner (Twelve Meditations), Gyldendal, Oslo, 2002
Drømmemakeren sa (The Dreammaker Said), Gyldendal, Oslo, 2004
Store hvite bok å se (Big White Book to See), Gyldendal, Oslo, 2011
Entusiastiske essays : klippbok 1960-75, Gyldendal, Oslo, 1976
Det norske syndromet. Et kritisk syn på norsk lyrikk, Universitetsforlaget, Oslo, 1980
Her. Her i denne verden : essays og samtaler, Gyldendal, Oslo, 1984
Poetisk praksis 1975-1990, Gyldendal, Oslo, 1990
Under Hauges ord. Essays, samtaler, brev, dikt, fotos, Samlaget, Oslo, 1994
Etterblikk. Ernst Orvil, poet 1995
STORYTELLERS. En begrunnet antologi, Gyldendal, Oslo, 1998
Tydelig, 33 : essays 1965-1998, Gyldendal, Oslo, 1999
Mørkets sangerske. En bok om Gunvor Hofmo (The Singer of Darkness. A Book about Gunvor Hofmo), Gyldendal, Oslo, 2000
God jul med Gertrude Stein og andre essays (Happy Christmas with Gertrude Stein and Other Essays), Gyldendal, Oslo, 2005
Briskeby blues (Jan Garbarek Quartet), PolyGram Records, Oslo, 1969
Hav (Jan Garbarek Quintet), 1971
Trikkeskinner (single with Jan Garbarek), 1973
Ingentings bjeller (Garbarek / Stenson Quartet), 1977
Stein. Regn / Bob Dylan på norsk (Kåre Virud and Telemark Blueslag), 1981
Den dagen Lady døde / Jan Erik Vold leser dikt av Frank O'Hara, Hot Club Records, Oslo, 1986
Blåmann! Blåmann! (with Chet Baker and Kapstad trio, Hot Club Records, Oslo, 1988
Sannheten om trikken er at den brenner (Egil Kapstad Sextet), Hot Club Records, Oslo, 1990
Pytt Pytt Blues, (Egil Kapstad Trio), Hot Club Records, Oslo, 1992
Obstfelder LIVE på Rebekka West (Egil Kapstad Quartet), Hot Club Records, Oslo, 1994
Her er huset som Per bygde (Egil Kapstad Trio), Hot Club Records, Oslo, 1996
STORYTELLERS (Egil Kapstad Octet), Hot Club Records, Oslo, 1998
Vold synger svadaåret inn (Frode Alnæs / Alfred Janson Quartet), Hot Club Records, Oslo, 2005
Drømmemakeren sa (Egil Kapstad Duo & On the Corner strykekvartett), Hot Club Records, Oslo, 2008
Jan Erik Vold: Vokal. The Complete Recordings 1966-1977, Plastic Strip/Musikkoperatørene, 2009
Telemark Blue (with Chet Baker), Hot Club Records, Oslo, 2010
Live at Kongsberg Jazzfestival 2010. Jan Erik Vold reads poems by Wallace Stevens (with Bill Frisell), 2012