The poet Herman Wildenwey

(Norwegian version) The street "Wildenveys gate" is near the Thon Hotel, formerly called Bjørheim Hotel. Here the Norwegian poet Herman Wildenwey (1885–1959) is said to have written his debut collection of poems in 1907. The book was called Nyinger – in English meaning bonfires.

Text: Per Erling Bakke

Adapted and translated into English by Ivar Teigum

The future poet entered Otta by train 1. July 1907. Trunk in hand he walked among birch trees from the railway station to Bjørkheim Hotel, where he was received by the two owner ladies. The hotel was new, and had 30 beds. His job throughout the summer was to help with service to foreign guests.

Herman Wildenvey i 1919.Herman Wildenwey in 1919.

In an autobiographical note Wildenwey writes,  the summer was beautiful, silent and with a low humming sound coming from the two rivers. The weather, however, was not so favourable. It rained into this green cauldron in the midst of the mountains.

Consequently there were not many guests to be assisted from the railway station, and little guiding. Instead he sat writing in his room, Songs were growing in his mind.

Wildenwey writes:  My verses are wild plants in a summer scattered about. On this note Wildenwey opens his collection, which was published later in the year. At Otta he met other young people, and they went on walking trips to Mysusetra and further on in the mountains. One of them was the seven years older railway employee Marcello Haugen, who was a clairvoyant.

Again Wildenwey writes:  We stayed overnight in the mountains. We lit a bonfire as we sat talking about the future. Marcello read the stars and foresaw that something would happen to me. While I sat looking at the living flames against the sky, almost without listening to him, it stood burning clear to me that my collection of poems had to be called Bonfires, and nothing else.

The book was published in December. It was a success, and it opened the gates for him to fame, and acceptance into literary circles. He was the poet of sunshine and summer, life and loves, sometimes reminding him of a brief meeting with young ladies at Otta.

One night in September he stood waiting for a date outside Grand Hotel, the girl’s name was Maj. But Maj did not turn up. But another girl appeared carrying a load of firewood. With a teasing smile she told him that Maj had left for Mysusetra with a friend from Oslo. In short, another rendezvous was under way instead.

Two weeks later Wildenwey was ready to leave with his poetry collection packed in his trunk. Seemingly by accident the girl with the firewood turned up, and she asked him not to forget her. Forty years later he returned to read from his poetry at Solvang, the community hall. The audience was invited to ask for poems to be read aloud, and at least one lady grasped the opportunity.

Herman WildenveyHerman Wildenwey was a popular Norwegian poet.

Otta did not forget Wildenwey, nor did the local authority. The hotel named their pub after him. At the naming of streets in 1968, the poet was honoured with Wildenweys gate, a small street near the hotel.