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Tomas Tranströmer

(15 April 1931 / Stockholm)

Biography of Tomas Tranströmer

Tomas Tranströmer poet

a Swedish writer, poet and translator, whose poetry has been deeply influential in Sweden, as well as around the world. He was the recipient of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature "because, through his condensed, transluscent images, he gives us fresh access to reality".

Tranströmer received his secondary education at the Södra Latin School in Stockholm and graduated as a psychologist from Stockholm University in 1956. He began writing at thirteen, and published his first collection of poems, 17 dikter (Seventeen Poems) in 1954. An English translation by Robin Fulton of his entire body of work, New Collected Poems, was published in the UK in 1987 and expanded in 1997. Following the publication of Den stora gåtan (The Great Enigma), Fulton's edition was further expanded into The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems, published in the US in 2006 and as an updated edition of New Collected Poems in the UK in 2011. He published a short autobiography, Minnena ser mig (Memories look at me), in 1993. HE was awarded the Nobel price in literature in 2011.

Other poets, especially in the "political" 1970's, accused Tranströmer of being apart from his tradition and not including political issues in his poems and novels. His work, though, lies within and further develops the Modernist and Expressionist/Surrealist language of 20th century poetry; his clear, seemingly simple pictures from everyday life and nature in particular reveals a mystic insight to the universal aspects of the human mind. Tranströmer and the American poet Robert Bly are close friends and their correspondence has been published in the book Air Mail.

In 1990, Tranströmer suffered a stroke that affects his speech, but he continues to write. Tranströmer has in the past been mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and many consider him one of Sweden's foremost poets. Tranströmer's awards include the Bonnier Award for Poetry, the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the Oevralids Prize, the Petrarca-Preis in Germany, the Golden Wreath of the Struga Poetry Evenings and the Swedish Award from International Poetry Forum. In 2007, Tranströmer received a special Lifetime Recognition Award given by the trustees of the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry, which also awards the annual Griffin Poetry Prize. His poetry has been translated into fifty languages; Bly, and the prominent American blues writer Samuel Charters have translated his work into English.

In addition to his work as a writer, Tranströmer was also a respected psychologist before he had his stroke. He worked in juvenile prisons, and with disabled, convicts, and drug addicts. He is also a piano player, something he has been able to continue after his stroke, albeit with one hand.

Tranströmer was awarded the Nobel prize in Litterature 2011 on October 6.

Swedish collections

17 dikter (1954) - Seventeen Poems

Hemligheter på vägen (1958)

Den halvfärdiga himlen (1962) - The Half-Finished Heaven

Klanger och spår (1966) - Windows and Stones

Mörkerseende (1970) - Night Vision

Stigar (1973) - Paths

Östersjöar (1974) - Baltics

Sanningsbarriären (1978)

Det vilda torget (1983)

För levande och döda (1989) - For the Living and the Dead

Sorgegondolen (1996)

Den stora gåtan (2004)

Galleriet: Reflected in Vecka nr.II (2007)- an artist book by Modhir Ahmed

Selected books in English translation

20 Poems tr. Robert Bly (Seventies Press, 1970)

Windows and Stones tr. May Swenson & Leif Sjoberg (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972)

Baltics tr. Samuel Charters (Oyez, Berkeley, 1975)

Collected Poems tr. Robin Fulton (Bloodaxe Books, 1987)

Sorrow Gondola: Sorgegondolen tr. Robin Fulton (Dedalus Press, 1997)

New Collected Poems tr. Robin Fulton (Bloodaxe Books, 1997)

The Half-Finished Heaven tr. Robert Bly (Graywolf Press, 2001)

The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems tr. Robin Fulton (New Directions, 2006)

The Sorrow Gondola tr. Michael McGriff and Mikaela Grassl (Green Integer, 2010)

New Collected Poems tr. Robin Fulton (Bloodaxe Books, 2011)

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National Insecurity

The Under Secretary leans forward and draws an X
and her ear-drops dangle like swords of Damocles.

As a mottled butterfly is invisible against the ground
so the demon merges with the opened newspaper.

A helmet worn by no one has taken power.
The mother-turtle flees flying under the water.

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