Friday, March 27, 2015

Tomas Tranströmer, R.I.P.

Sad news: The great Swedish poet and Nobel laureate Tomas Tranströmer has died.  Here, in memoriam, are some of his poems in translations I made with poet and critic Lars-Håkan Svensson when I lived in Sweden in the late 1990s.  They originally appeared in a special Scandinavian issue of Samizdat.

Haiku by Tomas Tranströmer

A lamasery
with hanging gardens. 
Battle pictures.

Thoughts stand unmoving
like the mosaic tiles
in the palace yard.

Up along the slopes
under the sun – the goats
were grazing on fire.

On the balcony
standing in a cage of sunbeams –
like a rainbow.

Humming in the mist.
There, a fishing-boat out far –
trophy on the waters.


Cool shagginess of pines
on the selfsame tragic fen.
Always and always.

Carried by darkness.
I met an immense shadow
in a pair of eyes.

These milestones
have set out on a journey.
Hear the wood-dove’s voice.


Resting on a shelf
in the library of fools
the sermon-book, untouched.

My happiness swelled
and the frogs sang in the bogs
of Pomerania.

He’s writing, writing…
The canals brimmed with glue.
The barge across the Styx.

Go quiet as rain,
meet the whispering leaves.
Hear the Kremlin bell.


The ceiling rent open
and the dead one sees me.
This face.

Something has happened.
The moon lit up the room.
God knew about it.

Hear the sighing rain.
I whisper a secret, to reach
all the way in there.

A scene on the platform.
What a strange calm –
the inner voice.

The sea is a wall.
I hear the gulls crying –
they’re waving to us.

God’s wind at my back.
The shot which comes without sound –
a dream all-too-long.

Ash-colored silence.
The blue giant passes.
Cool breeze from the sea.

I have been there –
and on a whitewashed wall
the flies are gathering.

The apple trees in blossom.
The great enigma.

1 comment:

  1. That one about mosaic tiles is very nice.