Thursday, October 06, 2011

Tranströmerei (Nobel Prize for Literature, 2011) + 3 Poems by Tranströmer

Tranströmerei it is. A poet, and so I cheer.
Not my first choice, not even my fifth
but I'm glad see the Swedish Academy
acknowledge that artists toiling
in the oldest literary art deserve
recognition too. Recognize!

Tomas Tranströmer's (1931-) personal biographical information, with bibliography, is available at the Nobel Prize for Literature website. Instead of recounting it or faking an appraisal of his poetry--

because though I have read it
and even mentioned him before
as a possible Laureate on here
aeons ago I would be telling
tall tales if I said I read him regularly or
considered him a poet I ever
turned to* except on days like today--

Here are three Tranströmer poems not translated by Robert Bly (1926-), whose translations of today's laureate predominate across the Net. See what you think. (*Teju Cole is a huge fan of his. I'm a huge fan of Teju Cole. So transitively...?)

(An interview with Tranströmer, on translation.)

Tranströmer is not without gifts, ample ones:


Tired of all who come with words, words but no language
I went to the snow-covered island.
The wild does not have words.
The unwritten pages spread themselves out in all directions!
I come across the marks of a roe-deer's hooves in the snow.
Language but no words.

Copyright © Tomas Tranströmer, from The Wild Marketplace, translated by John F. Deane, Dublin: The Dedalus Press, 1983. All rights reserved.

And this:


I am a dark hull floating between two lock-gates
rest in the hotel bed while the city around me wakens.
The silent clamor and the gray light stream in
and raise me slowly to the next level: the morning.

Overhead horizon. They want to say something, the dead.
They smoke but don't eat, they don't breathe but they keep their voice.
I'll be hurrying back through the streets as one of them.
The blackened cathedral, heavy as a moon causes ebb and flow.

Copyright © Tomas Tranströmer, from For the Living and the Dead: New Poems and a Memoir, edited by Daniel Halpern, this poem translated by Robin Fulton, Hopewell, New Jersey: The Ecco Press, 1995.

And this:


The outermost circle belongs to myth. There sinks the helmsman
erect among glittering spines of fish.
How far away from us! When the day
suffocates in windless unrest--
like the Congo's green shadow holds
the blue men in its vapor--
when all of this flotsam on the heart's slow
twining river
piles itself up.

Sudden change: beneath the float of heavenly hulls
glide the tethered ones.
Stern high, at an impossible angle,
leans the carcass of a dream, black
against a pale red strip of coast.  Deserted,
the years drop downhill, quick
and silent as sled shadows, doglike, enormous,
run over snow,
reach the forest.

Copyright © Tomas Tranströmer, from Windows & Stones: Selected Poems, translated by May Swenson, with Leif Sjöberg, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972.

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