Saturday, April 25, 2015

Tomas Tranströmer, 1931–2015

Below Freezing
Tomas Tranströmer
translated by Robert Bly
We are at a party that doesn’t love us. Finally the party lets the mask fall and shows what it is: a shunting station for freight cars. In the fog cold giants stand on their tracks. A scribble of chalk on the car doors.
One can’t say it aloud, but there is a lot of repressed violence here. That is why the furnishings seem so heavy. And why it is so difficult to see the other thing present: a spot of sun that moves over the house walls and slips over the unaware forest of flickering faces, a biblical saying never set down: “Come unto me, for I am as full of contradictions as you.”
I work the next morning in a different town. I drive there in a hum through the dawning hour that resembles a dark blue cylinder. Orion hangs over the frost. Children stand in a silent clump, waiting for the school bus, the children no one prays for. The light grows gradually as our hair.
Tomas Tranströmer, 1931–2015
He had been nominated for the Nobel Prize every year since 1993, and finally won in 2011. The Swedish Academy said in its citation that Transtromer had received the Nobel prize “because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality”.
Transtromer was left partly paralysed after suffering a stroke in 1990, which made it difficult for him to speak, though he continued to write.
Transtromer debuted at 23 with the collection Seventeen Poems, and later divided his time between poetry and his work as a psychologist.
In famous collections such as the 1966 Windows And Stones, Transtromer used imaginative metaphors to describe the mysteries of the human mind, while his other work addressed nature, history and death.
He is survived by his wife Monika and their two daughters Emma and Paula.
Today, we are re-reading such poems as “The Indoors Is Endless”;
Other poems:
Ten poems by Tomas Tranströmer
translations by Robert Bly
A Programme of Texts by Tomas Tranströmer
Nobel Lecture December 7, 2011
Tomas Tranströmer
One evening in February I came near to dying here.
The car skidded sideways on the ice, out
on the wrong side of the road. The approaching cars –
their lights – closed in.

My name, my girls, my job
broke free and were left silently behind
further and further away. I was anonymous
like a boy in a playground surrounded by enemies.

The approaching traffic had huge lights.
They shone on me while I pulled at the wheel
in a transparent terror that floated like egg white.
The seconds grew – there was space in them –
they grew as big as hospital buildings.

You could almost pause
and breathe out for a while
before being crushed.

Then something caught: a helping grain of sand
or a wonderful gust of wind. The car broke free
and scuttled smartly right over the road.
A post shot up and cracked – a sharp clang – it
flew away in the darkness.

Then – stillness. I sat back in my seat-belt
and saw someone coming through the whirling snow
to see what had become of me.
I have been walking for a long time
on the frozen Östergötland fields.
I have not seen a single person.

In other parts of the world
there are people who are born, live and die
in a perpetual crowd.

To be always visible – to live
in a swarm of eyes –
a special expression must develop.
Face coated with clay.

The murmuring rises and falls
while they divide up among themselves
the sky, the shadows, the sand grains.

I must be alone
ten minutes in the morning
and ten minutes in the evening.
– Without a programme.

Everyone is queuing at everyone's door.


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The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau