Grooks and Grook-Shaped Objects

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Verse and drawing by Piet Hein

What is a Grook? A Grook is a verse form invented (or at least named) by the Danish polymath Piet Hein. Grooks, per Wikipedia, are a form of short aphoristic poem.

I discovered Piet Hein and his Grooks as a child and became an instant fan, though I had no idea how many of them he had actually written! The one that first caught my eye and etched itself into memory in childhood was this:

We shall have to evolve
problem-solvers galore,
for each problem they solve
creates ten problems more!

Possibly his most-quoted Grook is this one:

Problems worthy of attack
prove their worth by hitting back!

Another favourite:

The road to wisdom? Well, it’s plain
and simple to express:
Err, and err, and err again —
but less, and less, and less.

Hein’s Grooks have stuck with me for a lifetime, and now and then — too seldom — I find myself creating a Grook of my own. Here are some of these literary canapés, offered in affectionate homage to the great Piet Hein.

Fall Foliage

Green and gold above,
brown and gold below:
October maples practising
the art of letting go…
Amber, umber, embers,
rehearsing for the snow:
on the slopes of winter
summer’s Alpenglow.

World oil reserves are running dry,
but of foolish young men we have ample supply.
Therefore we conclude it is no great matter
in securing the former, to squander the latter.

Semi-informed, -aware, and -rational
voters should unite in ousting
leaders who on the international
stage indulge in willy-jousting.

Closer than we’d like to think,
helpful Entropy stands by —
convincing boats they want to sink,
and people, that we want to die.

Love and purpose do for us
what caulk and mallet do for boats:
although it may look effortless,
it takes hard work to stay afloat.


Originals are always best;
there is no disputin’
that a fresh Black Mission Fig
beats a Fig Newton.

(hat tip to Edward Lear)

The Capitalist’s a Man who Frets and Fidgets
in his Zeal to turn the whole World into Widgets.
Half the World, you say, should Well Suffice?
Nay, the Capitalist will brook no Compromise:
ALL must be Widgetised, and Every Widget — Priced.

NOTHING must be Free, untagged, unowned:
On every Stone a UPC — and every Heart, a Stone.

Bug Kill Pine

Taiga, taiga, turning brown,
beetle-eaten, burning down;
no jet flight or SUV
is worth this slo-mo tragedy.

Missing you is what I do,
is how I live, is who I am;
and all the while aware that you
will never give an inch, a damn.

Haiku for Industrial Civ

like a passenger
on a vessel piloted
by raving drunkards

one glances about
wondering which part of the
tilting deck sinks last?

Why write? Why paint, why build, why sing?
Why, in fact, do anything,
when melting ice and rising seas,
failing crops and dying bees —
well, I think I’ll skip the rest:
we can all recite the dismal list —
reduce the work of “fools like me”
to gibbering irrelevancy?

The only writing we now need
is on the wall — for all to read.

Retired; ex-software engineer. Paleo-feminist. Sailor. Arduino tinkerer. Enviro. Libertarian Socialist (Anarcho-Syndicalist, kinda). Writer. Altermondialiste.

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