Piet Hein was a Danish architect, designer, and polymath. His contribution to this series lies in his “grooks” – short, punchy poems that hit at the heart of a question. The definition of a good after-dinner speaker in Denmark is someone who can talk for half an hour without quoting one of Piet Hein’s grooks. Below are several of my favourites.

Problems worthy of attack,

Prove their worth by hitting back


Everything’s either

concave or -vex,

so whatever you dream

will be something with sex.


Nature, it seems, is the popular name

for milliards and milliards and milliards

of particles playing their infinite game

of billiards and billiards and billiards.


and finally


Sometimes, exhausted

with toil and endeavour,

I wish I could sleep

for ever and ever;

but then this reflection

my longing allays:

I shall be doing it

one of these days.

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