Tomas Tranströmer

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Tomas Tranströmer Poems

Once there was a shock
that left behind a long, shimmering comet tail.
It keeps us inside. It makes the TV pictures snowy.
It settles in cold drops on the telephone wires.

It’s spring in 1827, Beethoven
hoists his death-mask and sails off.

The grindstones are turning in Europe’s windmills.

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.

Men in overalls the same color as earth rise from a ditch.
It's a transitional place, in stalemate, neither country nor city.
Construction cranes on the horizon want to take the big leap,
but the clocks are against it.

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

The almighty cyclop’s-eye clouded over
and the grass shook itself in the coal dust.

Beaten black and blue by the night’s dreams

Despondency breaks off its course.
Anguish breaks off its course.
The vulture breaks off its flight.

It is night with glaring sunshine. I stand in the woods and look towards my house with its misty blue walls. As though I were recently dead and saw the house from a new angle.

This forest in May. It haunts my whole life:
the invisible moving van. Singing birds.
In silent pools, mosquito larvae's

The black grand piano, the gleaming spider
stood trembling in the midst of its music-net.

One day as she rinsed her wash from the jetty,
the bay's cold grave rose up through her arms
and into her life.

Rushing rushing water's rumbling old hypnosis.
The river's flooding the car-graveyard, glittering
behind the masks.

The stones we have thrown I hear
fall, glass-clear through the year. In the valley
confused actions of the moment

After a black day, I play Haydn,

and feel a little warmth in my hands.


2 A.M. moonlight. The train has stopped

out in a field. Far off sparks of light from a town,

The blue sky's engine-drone is deafening.

We're living here on a shuddering work-site

The white butterfly in the park is being read by many.
I love that cabbage-moth as if it were a fluttering corner of truth itself!

At dawn the running crowds set our quiet planet in motion.
Then the park fills with people. To each one, eight faces polished like jade, for all
situations, to avoid making mistakes.
To each one, there's also the invisible face reflecting 'something you don't talk about.'
Something that appears in tired moments and is as rank as a gulp of viper schnapps with its long scaly aftertaste.

The carp in the pond move continuously, swimming while they sleep, setting an example for the faithful: always in motion.

It's midday. Laundry flutters in the gray sea-wind high over the cyclists
who arrive in dense schools. Notice the labrinths on each side!

I'm surrounded by written characters that I can't interpret, I'm illiterate through and through.
But I've paid what I owe and have receipts for everything.
I've accumulated so many illegible receipts.
I'm an old tree with withered leaves that hang on and can't fall to the ground.

And a gust from the sea gets all these receipts rustling.

At dawn the trampling hordes set our quiet planet in motion.
We're all aboard the street, and it's as crammed as the deck of a ferry.

Where are we headed? Are there enough teacups? We should consider ourselves lucky
to have made it aboard this street!
It's a thousand years before the birth of claustrophobia.

Hovering behind each of us who walks here is a cross that wants to catch up with us,
pass us, unite with us.
Something that wants to sneak up on us from behind, put its hands over our eyes and
whisper 'Guess who!'

We look almost happy out in the sun, while we bleed to death from wounds we don't
know about.

Two old men, father-and son-in-law, Liszt and Wagner, are staying by the Grand Canal
together with the restless woman who is married to King Midas,
he who changes everything he touches to Wagner.
The ocean's green cold pushes up through the palazzo floors.
Wagner is marked, his famous Punchinello profile looks more tired than before,
his face a white flag.
The gondola is heavy-laden with their lives, two round trips and a one-way.

A window in the palazzo flies open and everyone grimaces in the sudden draft.
Outside on the water the trash gondola appears, paddled by to one-oared bandits.
Liszt has written down some chords so heavy, they ought to be sent off
to the mineralological institute in Padua for analysis.
Too heavy to rest, they can only sink and sink straight through the future all the way down to the Brownshirt years.
The gondola is heavy-laden with the future's huddled-up stones.

Peep-holdes into 1990.

March 25th. Angst for Lithuania.
Dreamt I visited a large hospital.
No personnel. Everyone was a patient.

In the same dream a newborn girl
who spoke in complete sentences.

Beside the son-in-law, who's a man of the times, Liszt is a moth-eaten grand seigneur.
It's a disguise.
The deep, that tries on and rejects different masks, has chosen this one just for him—
the deep that wants to enter people without ever showing its face.

Abbé Liszt is used to carrying his suitcase himself through sleet and sunshine
and when his time comes to die, there will be no one to meet him at the station.
A mild breeze of gifted cognac carries him away in the midst of a commission.
He always has commissions.
Two thousand letters a year!
The schoolboy who writes his misspelled word a hundred times before he's allowed
to go home.
The gondola is heavy-laden with life, it is simple and black.

Back to 1990.

Dreamt I drove over a hundred miles in vain.
Then everything magnified. Sparrows as big as hens
sang so loud that it briefly struck me deaf.

Dreamt I had drawn piano keys
on my kitchen table. I played on them, mute.
The neighbors came over to listen.

The clavier, which kept silent through all of Parsifal (but listened), finally has
something to say.
When Liszt plays tonight he holds the sea-pedal pressed down
so the ocean's green force rises up through the floor and flows together with all the
stone in the building.
Good evening, beautiful deep!
The gondola is heavy-laden with life, it is simple and black.

Dreamt I was supposed to start school but arrived too late.
Everyone in the room was wearing a white mask.
Whoever the teacher was, no one could say.

Jag väcker bilen
som har vindrutan överdragen med frömjöl.
Jag sätter på mig solglasögonen.
Fågelsången mörknar.

Medan en annan man köper en tidning
på järnvägsstationen
i närheten av en stor godsvagn
som är alldeles röd av rost
och står flimrande i solen.

Inga tomrum någonstans här.

Tvärs genom vårvärmen en kall korridor
där någon kommer skyndande
och berättar att man förtalat honom
ända upp i styrelsen.

Genom en bakdörr i landskapet
kommer skatan
svart och vit, Hels fågel.
Och koltrasten som rör sig kors och tvärs
tills allt blir en kolteckning,
utom de vita kläderna på tvättstrecket:
en palestrinakör.

Inga tomrum någonstans här.

Fantastiskt att känna hur min dikt växer
medan jag själv krymper.
Den växer, den tar min plats.
Den tränger undan mig.
Den kastar mig ur boet.
Dikten är färdig.

I waken the car
whose windscreen is coated with pollen.
I put on my sunglasses.
The birdsong darkens.

Meanwhile another man buys a paper
at the railway station
close to a large goods wagon
which is all red with rust
and stands flickering in the sun.

No blank space anywhere here.

Straight through the spring warmth a cold corridor
where someone comes running
and tells how up at head office
they slandered him.

Through a back door in the landscape
comes the magpie
black and white.
And the blackbird darting to and fro
till everything becomes a charcoal drawing,
except the white clothes on the washing-line:
a palestrina chorus.

No blank space anywhere here.

Fantastic to feel how my poem grows
while I myself shrink.
It grows, it takes my place.
It pushes me aside.
It throws me out of the nest.
The poem is ready.

Tomas Tranströmer Biography

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))

The Best Poem Of Tomas Tranströmer

After A Death

Once there was a shock
that left behind a long, shimmering comet tail.
It keeps us inside. It makes the TV pictures snowy.
It settles in cold drops on the telephone wires.

One can still go slowly on skis in the winter sun
through brush where a few leaves hang on.
They resemble pages torn from old telephone directories.
Names swallowed by the cold.

It is still beautiful to hear the heart beat
but often the shadow seems more real than the body.
The samurai looks insignificant
beside his armor of black dragon scales.

translated by Robert Bly

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