POEMS BY TOMAS TRANSTROMER

Last October 6th, I woke up to the announcement that the Nobel Committee had awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature to Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer.  He bested other luminaries in the running such as Syrian poet Adonis and Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami (even long shot Bob Dylan).  Considered Sweden’s greatest living poet, Transtromer’s work has been translated into 50 languages.  Ironically, despite being a best-seller in Sweden, Transtromer is not as well-known in other parts of the world.  He recently turned 80, and continues to write poetry.

I am posting three of his poems that I like here, and am as of now actively looking for any of his poetry collections. The New York Observer says a number of Transtromer’s poem collections in English will certainly be reprinted following his win.  Wikipedia also lists his published books in English translation.  As a layman I find it easier to approach Nobel Prizewinning works in poetry since short but complete samples are available online for immediate appreciation.  I hope you enjoy the three I’ve selected:

THE TREE AND THE SKY
(translated by Robin Fulton)

There’s a tree walking around in the rain,
it rushes past us in the pouring grey.
It has an errand.  It gathers life
out of the rain like a blackbird in an orchard.

When the rain stops, so does the tree.
There it is, quiet on clear nights
waiting as we do for the moment
when the snowflakes blossom in space.

APRIL AND SILENCE
(translated by Robin Fulton)

Spring lies desolate.
The velvet-dark ditch
crawls by my side
without reflections.

The only thing that shines
is yellow flowers.

I am carried in my shadow
like a violin
in its black case.

The only thing I want to say
glitters out of reach
like the silver
in a pawnbroker’s.

THE COUPLE
(translated by Robert Bly)

They switch off the light and its white shade
glimmers for a moment before dissolving
Like a tablet in a glass of darkness.  Then up.
The hotel walls rise into the black sky.
The movements of love have settled, and they sleep
but their most secret thought meet as when
two colors meet and flow into each other
on the wet paper of a schoolboy’s painting.
It is dark and silent.  But the town has pulled closer
tonight.  With quenched windows.  The houses have approached.
They stand close up in a throng, waiting,
a crowd whose faces have no expressions.

All poems copyright Tomas Transtromer.  Many thanks to John Baker, Bloodaxe Blogs, and Transtromer.net for texts of these poems.

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