Poet to Poet: Graywolf To Publish Bly-Transtromer Correspondence


December 7, 2011, 4:59 pm



English-language admirers of Tomas Transtromer, the Swedish poet who will receive this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature in a ceremony in Stockholm on Saturday, will soon have to make room on their shelves for another book.

On Monday Graywolf Press acquired the rights to “Air Mail: The Correspondence of Robert Bly and Tomas Transtromer,” a collection of some 200 letters tentatively scheduled for publication in early 2013.

The book, already a best seller in Sweden, will contain the full correspondence between the two poets, starting in 1964, when Mr. Bly began publishing Mr. Transtromer in his journal The Sixties, and ending in 1990, when a stroke left Mr. Transtromer paralyzed on the right side, complicating his ability to write and speak.

The letters “range across all kinds of subjects,” Jeffrey Shotts, the editor who acquired the book, said in an email. ”Poetry, of course, and the back and forth of translation, critical reception of Transtromer’s work in the United States, politics in Sweden and the United States, the Vietnam War, travel plans, literary gossip, and even Transtromer becoming Bly’s son’s godfather. It is a remarkable portrait of a long-standing (and ongoing) literary friendship.” 

Read full article at The New Times Arts Blog

Even silent, musical instruments are lovely to behold



Classical Beat



The other day, a friend gave me a card from master woodcarver Robert Jones of Thomaston depicting a working French horn that he had made out of wood rather than brass. (Search for “58scallop” on YouTube to see it yourself.) The instrument is most certainly a tour de force, but I was wondering why anyone would go to all that trouble.

Then I looked at it from a little distance and found that the French horn is a work of art in itself, aside from the sounds it makes. The contrast of multiple curves, bell, circles and straight lines is somehow deeply satisfying.

Perhaps Jones’ next endeavor should be a tuba, which artist Rene Magritte turned into a collection of intestines in his painting “Le temps menacant.” Jones has already carved a working trumpet and trombone.

Perhaps aesthetics has as much to do with the design of an instrument as sound quality. There is really no acoustic reason why a violin, viola, cello or bass viol looks the way it does except for its resemblance to the female form. Near-perfect violin forms have been found from the Cycladic period of Greece (5,000-4,000 B.C.E.). They are thought to have been idols of a mother goddess.

Artists and musicians have always known this. Witness photographer Man Ray’s alteration of a postcard entitled “Violon d’Ingres,” by painting f-holes on the back of a female nude. Ingres has the first laugh, however, with his portrait of Paganini cradling his violin.

The harp is yet another ancient shape, reduced to its most basic form — a triangle with a curved hypotenuse, depicted in another Cycladic sculpture from 3,000 B.C.E. The modern harp has more florid decorations (the frame of the Cycladic version is a snake), but even the most primitive have bells and whistles that have nothing to do with the sound.

The woodwinds have their own beauty. I like to have a flute on the mantelpiece even though I can’t play a note on it, as an example of the aesthetic appeal of the machine. The bassoon, the oboe and the clarinet are also works of art that have evolved from simple origins, both musically and aesthetically.

Read full article at The Portland Press Herald

Remembering Nobel laureate Tomas Tranströmer’s time in Provincetown


The Word On The Street

By Jan Gardner |   December 04, 2011

March is a month of awakenings. Sap flows; birds return from their wintering grounds; and mating seasons begin. It’s the month with which Vermont naturalist and wildlife photographer Mary Holland begins her book, “Naturally Curious: A Photographic Field Guide and Month-by-Month Journey through the Fields, Woods, and Marshes of New England’’ (Trafalgar Square).

“Naturally Curious’’ is a fine guide, providing about 900 photographs and dozens of annotated lists of animals, plants, and fungi you might expect to see or hear at various times throughout the year. Holland writes about creatures big and small, from the habits of the bull moose in rut to the migration of the snow flea. Her book is this year’s winner in the nature guidebook category of the National Outdoor Book Awards.

Fond memories

When the Nobel Prize in Literature is conferred on Tomas Tranströmer on Saturday, a handful of poets who got to know him decades ago on Cape Cod will take notice. They fondly remember the Swedish poet from his two teaching residencies 30 years ago at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.

Read full article at Boston Globe

Chinese writers cheer Swedish poet’s Nobel win


  • Culture

  • Lee Yi-yun and Staff Reporter
  • 2011-10-08
  • 10:19 (GMT+8)

The Nobel literature laureate Tomas Gosta Transtromer counts Mo Yan, Yu Hua, Yan Lianke

and Bei Dao among his Chinese admirers. (Photo courtesy of Nobel Prize website)


The announcement of Swedish poet Tomas Gosta Transtromer as the recipient of this year’s Nobel prize for literature has been celebrated in China, with many publicly commending the writer who has many fans in the country.

Although the general view may be that Transtromer won because of his nationality after being nominated several times in past years, the reactions in China was largely positive. Transtromer had visited Beijing in March 2001.

In addition to counting leading Chinese writers such as Mo Yan, Yu Hua and Yan Lianke among his fans, exiled Chinese poet Bei Dao, who was nominated for the same prize in the past, is also friends with Transtromer and says he has influenced his own work.

Bei wrote about Transtromer in his 2005 book The Time of Rose, which included the Chinese writer’s observations about the Swede and other fellow poets.

The symbolism and surrealism displayed in Transtromer’s poems, often based on daily life and the natural world, have also influenced to some degree another Chinese poet, Li Li, who translates the new Nobel laureate’s works into Chinese.

Several Chinese writers shared their thoughts on the news on their microblogs. Poet Yu Xinqiao wrote, “Today, he is finally awarded the Nobel prize in literature, which is a right decision worth cheering for.”


Bei Dao 北島

The Time of Rose 時間的玫瑰

Li Li 李笠

Want China Times

In Praise of Tranströmer the Transformer—and His Translator, Robert Bly


  • Christopher Benfey

  • October 7, 2011 | 12:00 am

“Tranströmer!” Of course, I knew immediately what the email message meant. After years of waiting among the also-rans, and amid speculation that this was the year for an Arab poet to win the Nobel Prize in Literature to honor the Arab Spring, or maybe, a late-breaking rumor, that Bob Dylan was the bettors’ choice, a Swede was named to win the Swedish prize.

Tomas Tranströmer: The name always makes me think of some kind of giant transformer, sending out signals from his redoubt in the snowy fields west of Stockholm. He is said to be a respected psychologist there—someone who has worked in a juvenile prison and cares for convicts and drug addicts—and an amateur pianist. Until a recent stroke, he also wrote poems. Those poems are well known to American readers in the poetry world, if such a world can be said to exist. He still plays the piano, with one hand.

Every poet has a distinctive music. Here is the closing stanza of Tranströmer’s poem on Vermeer:

The airy sky has taken its place leaning against the wall.
It is like a prayer to what is empty.
And what is empty turns its face to us
and whispers:
“I am not empty, I am open.”

I told my emailing friend, himself a Scandinavian “by background,” as we say, that I’d always suspected he had invented Tranströmer. Not at all, he responded, “Tranströmer invented us.” A typical Northern sally of wit, I thought, as I walked the dog on a sunny and crisp fall morning in New England, crossing the stubble fields into the dark woods. But then I thought, hey, what if he’s right?

For me, a Nobel for Tranströmer, well deserved, is also a Nobel for his close friend, translator, and collaborator Robert Bly. Bly! I can’t even begin to calculate how much I owe, in all things literary and spiritual, to Robert Bly. I don’t mean the Bly of later years, the prophet of Iron John and the Men’s Movement, though I can’t say I’m unmoved by his lament for the fathers, now that I’m one myself. I don’t mean the ecstatic Bly who performs Kabir with some mysterious rhythm instrument in hand, chanting and dancing and making his serape flap like wings. But I can’t say I mind that either. The truth is, I love Robert Bly.

Read full article at New Republic

Tomas Tranströmer: Ten things you never knew about the poet you never knew



Our guide to the winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature.

 By Marie-Claire Chappet
4:34PM BST 06 Oct 2011
Whilst we would all like to claim awareness of this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature recipient, a poll currently underway at Nobelprize.org reveals that eighty-eight percent of those who logged on to discover this year’s winner had never read his poetry. Should you find yourself within this statistic, here is our handy guide to Tomas Tranströmer.

1. Born in 1931 in Stokholm to a schoolteacher mother and journalist father, Tranströmer spent much of his childhood in an Enid Blyton style blurr of jolly seaside holidays on Runmarö Island (in the Stockholm archipelago.) This became fodder for his nostalgic poems Östersjöar (1974; Baltics, 1975) and his 1993 memoir Minnena ser mig (The Memories See Me).

2. Tranströmer studied literary history, history of religion and psychology at Stockholm University. After graduating he was employed at the Institution for Psychometrics at Stockholm University in 1957 and, between 1960 and 1966, worked as a psychologist at Roxtuna, a youth correctional facility.

3. Despite a previous smattering of poems published in journals, Tranströmer’s literary debut was in 1954 with 17 dikter (17 Poems.) It has been consided one of the most acclaimed literary debuts of that decade.

4. In Sweden he is known as a ‘buzzard poet’ because his poetry views the world from a great height…like a buzzard, apparently.

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The Mystique of Tomas Tranströmer



November 5, 2011, 4:01 AM IST


Once in a sterile while, there happen those rare untethered moments when one is catapulted from the humdrum to a sublime plane. I had just invoked the name of Tomas Tranströmer vis-à-vis another piece of writing when my son rang to tell me that Tranströmer had just been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and I hit the ceiling.

My mind immediately went back to The World Poetry Festival (Vagarth) held at Bharat Bhavan, in Bhopal in 1989, where I first met Tranströmer. I still remember his sonorous voice reading, inter-alia, from his oeuvre, the lines: “Each man is a half-open door leading to a room for all,” which set the key-note for the Festival. He had later inscribed these words in my souvenir copy.

Three-way engagement

Born in Stockholm in 1931, Tranströmer is a writer, poet and translator acclaimed as one of the most important Scandinavian writers since World War II. He has published 15 collections of poetry and has been translated into over 60 languages. He worked as a psychologist until 1990. He also plays the piano and there is a constant cross-flow and symbiosis between all three engagements.

Among Tranströmer’s many awards are the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, The Petrarca-Pries in Germany, The Golden Wreath of The Struga Poetry Evenings, and the Swedish Award from International Poetry Forum.In 2007, Tranströmer received a special Lifetime Recognition Award given by the trustees of The Griffin Trust For Excellence in Poetry. His crowning glory has been the Nobel Prize for Literature for 2011.

It is a measure of his humanism that he visited the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy in 1984 long before Vagarth. His empathy for the human condition comes across even in a casual encounter.

Tall, imposing, with an arresting personality, Tranströmer strides the international scene like a colossus. There is a heightened awareness in his poetry, a state of sharpened perception. The outstanding characteristic of all his writing is a keenly visualised sense of all his poems.

Sense of rhythm

“I love images,” he says. “I have abstract images also; my memory is very visual too.” This is clear from these lines: “The lake is a window into the earth.” “I put on my sun-glasses, The birdsong darkens.” “…their most secret thoughts meet and flow into each other/As when two colours meet and flow into each other on the wet paper of a school-boy’s painting.”

Tranströmer has an innate sense of rhythm and, in the original Swedish, his poems have an unmistakeable music of their own, which ties up with his love of music.

Though he is deprecating about being called a mystic or religious poet, he does “respond to reality in such a way that I look on existence as a great mystery, and at certain moments, this mystery carries a strong charge, and it is often in such a context that I write. So that these poems are all the time pointing to a greater context: one that is incomprehensible to our everyday reason. Although it begins in something very concrete.”

The Hindu

Where Should I Start with Tomas Tranströmer?




By Colin Cheney| Posted Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011, at 3:20 PM ET

A picture taken on March 31, 2011 shows Swedish poet Tomas Transtroemer at his home in Stockholm, Sweden.

Photo by JESSICA GOW/AFP/Getty Images


Not to be confused with the Michael Bay franchise, the 80-year-old Swedish psychologist and poet Tomas Tranströmer, just awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, writes surreal, imagistic poems that explore his fascinations with the music of memory and nature. If you want to get to know his work, here are a few good entry points:

1. Tomas Tranströmer: Selected Poems, 1954 – 1986. Edited by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, this selection of over 100 poems provides perhaps the best introduction to Tranströmer. Here, the poems are Englished by twelve different translators, including Hass; it’s a good way to figure out whose translations make you feel closest to the ‘real’ Tranströmer. 

2. The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems. This 2006 collection of Robin Fulton’s clear-eyed and spare translations will give you the most complete picture of the arc of Tranströmer’s career. It’s also one of the only readily available books that shows how the poems were originally collected in Swedish. The Great Enigma includes everything from the astonishing teenage lyrics published in 1952 (17 Poems), to the haunting Baltics, to the late poems of The Sad Gondola.

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The Beauty Of Stillness


Nobel Literature Winner Tomas Tranströmer

by John Freeman

October 6, 2011

Paula Tranströmer/AP

Tomas Tranströmer won the Nobel Prize for Literature October 6


Like a glass-blower by a wintry sea, Tomas Tranströmer has been slowly and painstakingly making poems in his native Stockholm since the early 1950s. In his debut work, the modestly titled Seventeen Poems, published when Tranströmer was just 23, the Swedish poet imagined Thoreau in the woods, “disappearing deep in his inner greenness/artful and hopeful.”

A private man in his work and life, Tranströmer has been following Thoreau’s example for 50 years. He will have more difficulty doing that after today’s announcement that he is this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

In truth, though, Tranströmer is far from obscure. Since the 1960s, when his work first began to appear in English — translated by Robert Bly, Robert Hass, May Swenson and others — he has been one of the most regularly translated European poets. On this, the morning of the prize, Tranströmer has already been translated into over 50 languages.

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