Archive for October 7th, 2011

Tomas Tranströmer: The dark horse who is no dark horse

Friday, October 7th, 2011


So the Nobel Literature sweepstakes had a happy ending this year: By now, everyone knows that Tomas Tranströmer at last took home the prize.  It’s enormously gratifying that someone of this heft and stature has bagged the prize, but a lot of my friends and colleagues are saying:  “Who?”

It is, as the Associated Press noted, not really a surprise:

The Nobel Prize in literature was awarded Thursday to a psychologist who used his spare time to craft sparsely written poems about the mysteries of everyday life — commuting to work, watching the sun rise or waiting for nightfall.

Tomas Tranströmer, Sweden’s most famous poet, had been a favorite for the prize for so many years that even his countrymen had started to doubt whether he would ever win.

The Nobel judges are understandably reluctant to reward one of their own, a fellow Swede.

I’m not terrifically familiar with his oeuvre, though I like what I’ve I read so far.  Since I’m currently on the road, I took his The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems with me – one of those books I bought but never really had a chance to do much more than thumb through.

“His poems have a kind of stark, piercing inwardness that’s very striking,” said Robert Hass, who edited Transtromer’s “Selected Poems.”

“There are lots of poems written about driving back and forth to work, poems about dawn, poems about dusk. He gets those moments in life, those ordinary periods of change.”

So few of the articles have quoted any of his poetry.  So how about this, the last stanza of “Morning Birds”:

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.