Thursday, October 06, 2011


SO I just saw that this Swedish poet that I am sure few outside Sweden have ever head of, Tomas Transtromer, has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Apparently he's been in the running for some years to win (though I see some crap about how Bob Dylan was the favored candidate to win? GOOD GRIEF NO. Dylan's Friday was a classic, but its not THAT GOOD.)

It seems hard to find any of Transtromer's poems amidst all this reporting, however, which seems a pity since he presumably won because the poems are good. So I will post one I found via Google Books: (more: "The Great Enigma" (2006 ed.))

Alone "Ensamhet")
by Tomas Transtromer
from Bells and Tracks (Klanger Och Spar)


One evening in February I almost died here.
The car skidded sideways on the ice, out
onto the wrong side of the wrong. The approaching cars---
their lights--closed in.

My name, my girls, my job
broke free and were left silently behind
farther and farther away I was anonymous
like a boy in a playground surrounded by enemies

The approaching traffic had huge lights.
They shone on my while I pulled at the wheel
in a transparent terror that floated like egg white.
The seconds grew--there was space in them--
they grew as big as hospital buildings.

You could almost pause
and breathe for a while
before being crushed.

Then something caught: a helping grain of sand
or a wonderful gust of wind. The car broke free
and scuttled smartly right over the road.
A post shot up and cracked--a sharp clang--it
flew away in the darkness.

Then--stillness. I sat back still in my seatbelt
and saw someone coming through the swirling snow
to see what had become of me.


I have been walking for a long time
on the frozen Ostergotland fields.
I have not seen a single person.

In other parts of the world
there are people who are born, live and die
in a perpetual crowd.

To be always visible---to live
in a swarm of eyes---
a special expression must develop.
Face coated with clay.

The murmuring rises and falls
while they divide up among themselves
the sky, the shadows, the sand grains.

I must be alone
ten minutes in the morning
and ten minutes in the evening.
---Without a program.

Everyone is queuing for everyone else.



(The poem in Swedish is here. You can hear Transtromer reading the entire poem, in Swedish, here. And April 2009 English commentary on the poem here)