I recently learned, while listening to the flow of wisdom, music, and monologue that flows from lauir, that there's a type of poem called a 'Grook'. Quoting from the Wikipedia page:

The grooks are multi-faceted and characterized by irony, paradox, brevity, precise use of language, rhythm and rhyme, and an often satiric nature.

But... this doesn't help much. What does it mean by 'precise use of language'? Or 'rhythm and rhyme'?

What defines a 'Grook'? Is there a set of rules that will define a poem as a 'Grook'?


It is clear from web pages such as this one and this one that (unlike "sonnet" or "limerick" or "tanka") the term "grook" or "gruk" is not a widely used term for a recognizable verse form but rather a word invented by Piet Hein for the poems he wrote. It is possible someone other than Hein has written grooks, but the Internet does not seem to know about them.

Hein, with his starkly elegant design work (see this for a suprising instance), seems to have become a Danish culture hero. But I do not think his poetry is much imitated.

  • 2
    On this site, votes aren't just about whether an answer is correct, but whether an answer is well supported. This may very well be the correct answer, but you haven't really explained why it is correct. Explaining why you are correct is extremely important for a subjective site like literature. – user111 Dec 23 '17 at 22:58

Strictly speaking, a poem is a grook when it was published by the Danish scientist and poet Piet Hein in one of his volumes of "grooks". Grooks are simply what Hein called his own poems; it is not a well-defined term that has been used to describe poems by other authors.

When you compare the examples on the Danish blog En sommerfugls selvmord , the English Wikipedia article "grook", the German Wikipedia article "Gruk" and the Danish Wikipedia article "Gruk", it becomes clear that there is no fixed length or rhyme scheme. They are witty and short, so it can be argued that they are a sort of epigrams.

I looked in vain for the term "grook" (or, in German, "Gruk") in the following reference works for literary terms:

  • Knörrich, Otto: Lexikon lyrischer Formen. Second edition. Stuttgart: Kröner, 2005. ("Lexicon of lyrical forms")
  • Lamping, Dieter (ed.): Handbuch der literarischen Gattungen. Stuttgart: Kröner, 2009. ("Manual of literary genres")
  • Meid, Volker (ed.): Sachlexikon Literatur. München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1992/1993.
  • von Wilpert, Gero: Sachwörterbuch der Literatur. Eighth edition. Stuttgart: Kröner, 2001.

As a poet, Piet Hein is fairly obscure. I did not find his name in the following reference works:

  • Harenberg Lexikon der Weltliteratur. Autoren - Werke - Begriffe. In five volumes. Dortmund: Harenberg Lexikon Verlag, 1995.
  • GEO Themenlexikon volumes 28-30: "Literatur. Schriftsteller, Werke, Epochen".
  • Paul, Fritz (ed.): Grundzüge der neueren Skandinavischen Literaturen. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1991. (This is a history of Scandinavian literatures from the Reformation to the late 20th century.)
  • Glauser, Jürg (ed.): Skandinavische Literaturgeschichte. 2nd edition. Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler, 2016. (A history of Scandinavian literatures from 800 to 2015.)
  • Brøndsted, Mogens (ed.): Nordische Literaturgeschichte. Band II: Von 1860 bis zur Gegenwart. German translation. München: Wilhelm Fink, 1984. (Page 626 only mentions Hein's characterisation of modernist poetry: "If you have no ideas, write in an obscure way." (Danish: "Hvis du ingen tanker har,/ gør da ej din tale klar"))
  • 1
    Note that the Piet Hein quote in Brøndsted is actually a grook. – Peter Shor Aug 14 '18 at 1:35
  • 1
    And here is his English translation: "THE CASE FOR OBSCURITY: On Thoughts and Words" If no thought your mind does visit, make your speech not too explicit. – Peter Shor Aug 14 '18 at 1:55
  • @PeterShor Thanks. I'm not surprised it's a grook. I assume grooks are probably epigrams, based on the small sample I have seen. – Christophe Strobbe Aug 14 '18 at 8:26

There is a important ingredient in all of Piet Hein's grooks that neither of the existing answers mentions. All the poems in his published collections of them were accompanied by a simple drawing. For example:

Road to Wisdom Grook

Should these drawing be considered an essential part of a grook? I don't know—one would have had to ask Piet Hein.

So maybe the definition of a grook should not simply be a poetic epigram but a poetic epigram accompanied by a picture.

  • Good! (I had forgotten about the pictures.) – kimchi lover Sep 2 '18 at 2:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.