Tomas Transtromer, Nobel-Winning Poet, Dies at 83

Transtromer Passes


Tomas Transtromer, a Swedish poet who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2011 for a body of work known for shrewd metaphors couched in deceptively spare language, crystalline descriptions of natural beauty and explorations of the mysteries of identity and creativity, died on Thursday in Stockholm. He was 83.

The Swedish publisher Albert Bonniers announced the death without giving a cause. In 1990, at age 59, Mr. Transtromer had a stroke that severely curtailed his ability to speak; he also lost the use of his right arm.

With a pared-down style and brusque, forthright diction, Mr. Transtromer (pronounced TRAWN-stroh-mur) wrote in accessible language, though often in the service of ideas that were diaphanous and not easy to parse; he could be precisely observant one moment and veer toward surrealism the next.

Go to The New York Times


An Afternoon with Tranströmer in Stockholm


Editor’s note: Tomas Tranströmer received the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature on October 6.

I first met Monica and Tomas Tranströmer in 1983, in Houston. I had left my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, to attend a graduate writing program and nominated myself to pick them up at the airport. We immediately had a connection, since I had met Robert Bly in the 1970s and published a special feature on his poetry inAura Literary Arts Review, a magazine I edited for the English Department of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. They were delighted as their close relationship with Bly dated back to the 1960s.

The arrival of the Tranströmers on campus coincided that week with the arrival of Howard Moss, the poetry editor ofThe New Yorker. Ambition is very much an American trait, and most of the writing students chose to spend time with Moss on the chance he might choose their work for publication. That left the Tranströmers to me, so I gave them a guided tour of the city. We lunched at an Asian restaurant and visited a music store where Tomas could buy sheet music for piano to add to his growing library at home. Since childhood Tomas had played piano, and he was as talented with music as he was with poetry. The rest of the week Tomas conducted a poetry workshop and met individually with students. He concluded his residency with a reading before a large and enthusiastic audience.

 Go to Alabama Writers Forum


Tranströmer’s Childhood Insect Collection An Exhibit At The Swedish Natural History Museums

Photo: Annica Roos 

To win the Nobel Prize is to see all things of one’s life celebrated. Even an insect collection from childhood. Thus the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm created an exhibit of Tranströmer’s boyhood insect collection. An accompanying guide book was also published  in a limited edition by Fredrik Sjöberg, an entomologist, who describes in six beautiful  essays the young Tranströmer’s forays over Runmarö island in the Stockholm archipelago, in search of all things insect, small and rare.

The essays are preceded by a citation by Charles Darwin: “It seems therefore that a taste for collecting beetles is some indication for future success in life.”

Go to Swedish Museum of Natural History

Newly Discovered Beetle Named After Tranströmer

A previously unknown beetle species has been named for poet Tomas Tranströmer. Entomologist Michael Sörensson of Lund University (Sweden) discovered the beetle and named it after Tranströmer as a tribute to the poet. It was announced in conjunction with the celebration of the poet’s 80th birthday.

 The species named Mordellistena transtroemeriana (Poet’s Towers Ram) was discovered in Gotland, Sweden’s largest island and the largest island in the Baltic Sea, and is so far only known in two types. The new species is between 5 and 6 millimeters long. Its habits are still unknown, but Mikael Sörensson is planning an expedition to the island of Gotland to further investigate the new species.

“A Galaxy Over There,” video by British filmmaker Martin Earle

On December 10, 2011, Tomas Tranströmer received the Nobel Prize in Literature in his hometown Stockholm. On this occasion we are not only able to present Tomas Tranströmer’s poetry on, made possible with the help of our Swedish partner Ramus. but also got an interview with the young British filmmaker Martin Earle about his short film A Galaxy Over There (2009), based on on Tranströmer’s poem Schubertiana.


Read interview