Nobel Prize time is always exciting. It's a time when the great poets and writers of the world are recognized for their worth...and a time when I recognize I know so little about literature on a global scale. As I heard the announcement of the prize in literature on the radio, I thought who is Tomas Tranströmer and why have I never heard of him before?
In picking the prize I am reminded of how dedicated people are to their craft. How before the prize is awarded someone has sat and wrote hundreds of thousands of words. All leading up to this one triumphant and humbling moment. I surmise most authors, when they are awarded such a prestigious prize, survey their work and see a hundred different finger prints on it. They see the word choices the editor suggested, the character's reaction a spouse or friend suggested, and the error in chronology that no one has picked up but that they know is there. Most importantly, the award reminds me that the whole world is vibrating with creativity.
A poet who writes in Swedish, Tranströmer has two poems on Poets.org, both translated by Robert Bly. Both poems have a haunted, lingering imagism, like a Seamus Heaney poem spent a whole winter in the never ending darkness of a Scandenavian winter. In "Outskirts," Men "rise from a ditch" in a purgatorial state that is really suburbia, a place where "Auto-body shops occupy old barns." And the seemingly endless and growing construction projects are to the poet "like the land bought with Judas' silver: 'a potter's field for burying strangers.'" In "After A Death," the tone of the poem is like a requiem heard in the house with windows open and the fall air seeping in, giving a slight chill to the bones. Death reminds the poet that "It is still beautiful to hear the heart beat / but often the shadow seems more real than the body." And the cold keeps pouring in.
Just two poems, but enough to savor for a while. I have a feeling I'll be able to pick up a new edition of his collected works in English very soon.