Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tomas Transtromer / The Deleted World

Tomas Tranströmer

The Deleted World, by Tomas Transtromer, with versions by Robin Robertson

Venture into the wild and wintry world of Sweden's great 'buzzard poet'

Wednesday 22 November 2006
A standing ovation greeted the veteran Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer at this year's South Bank Poetry International. More than 50 years since his first collection appeared, he is now disabled by a stroke and unable to read his work, so this new selection was read by the Swedish actor Krister Henriksson.
The poet Robin Robertson has chosen to translate poems from collections published from 1954-1996, all inhabiting an autumnal, if not distinctly wintry, mood and setting. In Sweden, Transtromer is known as "the buzzard poet", for his aerial view of the landscape and human endeavour. Like Shelley and Rilke, he is a chronicler of angels and ascension, though, unlike them, he writes in a spare, almost cinematic style, which Robertson has taken great pains to emulate, while ensuring that mystery is not lost in too literal a translation.
Transtromer's subjects often feel that they have woken from the dream of life. The constant inversion of dream time and reality, of night and day, of the horizontal and vertical worlds, are abiding themes for this writer, a psychologist by profession who has worked principally with those deemed to be outcasts from society.
The poems also exhibit a photographic imagination in which light and dark are often transposed, as in the beautiful opening image of "The Couple": "They turn out the lamplight, and its white globe/ glimmers for a moment: an aspirin rising and falling/ then dissolving in a glass of darkness."
The "deleted world" is what happens when the lights go off, whether in the bedroom, or in the forest when the night bus stalls in the snow and the visual world shuts down. The brittleness of the Swedish winter means that fractures appear in the spiritual world, too, opening up "a crack/ where the dead/ are smuggled over the border". A consciousness of political borders separates the writer from old friends behind the Iron Curtain: "We will meet in two hundred years/ when the microphones on the hotel walls are forgotten."
Though frail, and without the use of his right arm, Transtromer delighted the South Bank audience with two small pieces of piano music, played with the left hand, reminding many that he is also a fine poet on the subject of music and musicality. This bilingual book provides an excellent introduction to the work of this major European poet.

Ken Worpole's 'Last Landscapes' is published by Reaktion

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tomas Traströmer / National Insecurity

Illustratio by Ernest Descals

National Insecurity

By Tomas Tranströmer
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.

 New and Collected Poems by Tomas Transtromer,T
translated by Robin Fulton. 
Published in 1997 by Bloodaxe Books. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Tomas Traströmer / The Tree and the Sky

The Tree and the Sky
By Tomas Tranströmer
Translated by Robin Fulton

There’s a tree walking around in the rain,
it rushes past us in the pouring grey.
It has an errand. It gathers life
out of the rain like a blackbird in an orchard.

When the rain stops so does the tree.
There it is, quiet on clear nights
waiting as we do for the moment

Friday, March 27, 2015

Tomas Traströmer / After a Death

By Tomas Tranströmer
Translated by Robert Bly
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

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Denise Levertov / Talking to Grief

Talking to Grief

Ah, grief, I should not treat you
like a homeless dog
who comes to the back door
for a crust, for a meatless bone.
I should trust you.

I should coax you
into the house and give you
your own corner,
a worn mat to lie on,
your own water dish.

You think I don't know you've been living
under my porch.
You long for your real place to be readied
before winter comes. You need
your name,
your collar and tag. You need
the right to warn off intruders,
to consider my house your own
and me your person
and yourself
my own dog. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Denise Levertov / Libation

La luz del paraíso
Photo by Triunfo Arciniegas

Raising our glasses, smilingly
we wish one another not luck
but happiness. After half a lifetime
with and without luck,
we know we need more than luck.
It makes no difference that we're drinking
tomato juice, not wine or whiskey -
we know what we mean,
and the red juice of those virtuous
vegetable-fruits is something we both enjoy.
I remember your wonder, as at a miracle,
finding them growing on sturdy vines
in my old aunt and uncle's sun-room
ripe to pluck at the breakfast-table!
We were twenty-three, and unappeasably hungry...

We agree on tomatoes, then-and happiness?
yes, that too: we mean growth, branching,
leafing, yielding blossoms and fruit and the sharp odor
                                                                                                      of dreams.
We mean knowing someone as deeply,
no, deeper, than we’ve known each other,
we mean being known. We are wishing each other
the luck not to need luck. I mill
some pepper into my juice, though,
and salt in the ancient gesture; and what would be wrong
with tipping out half a glass
for the gods?
                                                    We smile.
After these months of pain we begin
to admit our new lives have begun.

“The Freeing of the Dust”
New Directions Publishing, 1975.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Denise Levertov / The Good Dream

Photo by Triunfo Arciniegas
The Good Dream

by Denise Levertov


because we had met again
we rolled laughing
over and over upon the big bed.

The joy was
not in a narrow sense
narrow in any sense.
It was

that all impediments,
every barrier, of history,
of learn'd anxiety,
wrong place and wrong time,

had gone down,
It was the joy

of two rivers
meeting in depths of the sea.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Denise Levertov / The needless

by Denise Levertov

He told me about
a poem he was writing.
For me.
He told me it asked,
'When I mean only to brush her gently
with soft feathers,

do the feathers
turn into needles?'
His telling me

was a cloud of
soft feathers, I closed
my eyes and sank in it.

Many weeks
I waited. At last,
'Did you, were you able

to finish that poem
you told me about,

'No', he said
looking away.
Needles paused

for an instant on my skin
before they drew blood.

"Poems 1968-1972"
New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1987

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Denise Levertov / Adam's Complaint

Adam's Complaint
By Denise Levertov

Some people,

no matter what you give them,

still want the moon.

The bread,

the salt,

white meat and dark,

still hungry.

The marriage bed

and the cradle,

still empty arms.

You give them land,

their own earth under their feet,

still they take to the roads.

And water: dig them the deepest well,

still it’s not deep enough

to drink the moon from.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Denise Levertov / The Secret

The Secret
by Denise Levertov

Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of

I who don’t know the
secret wrote
the line. They
told me

(through a third person)
they had found it
but not what it was
not even

what line it was. No doubt
by now, more than a week
later, they have forgotten
the secret,

the line, the name of
the poem. I love them for
finding what
I can’t find,
and for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
so that
a thousand times, till death
finds them, they may
discover it again, in other

in other
happenings. And for
wanting to know it,

assuming there is
such a secret, yes,
for that
most of all.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Denise Levertov / A Silence

Miguel Angel de Quevedo, Mexico DF, 2013
Photo by Triunfo Arciniegas
A Silence
by Denise Levertov
Among its petals the rose still holds a few tears of the morning rain that broke it from its stem In each shines a speck of red light, darker even than the rose. Phoenix-tailed slateblue martins pursue one another, spaced out in hopeless hope, circling the porous clay vase, dark from the water in it. Silence surrounds the facts. A language still unspoken.