Published: 7 Dec 11 18:38 CET
The annual Nobel Lecture in Literature, honouring 80-year-old Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, opened in Stockholm on Wednesday with an introduction by Peter Englund, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy.
Whereas many literature laureates prepare special lectures for the occasion, Tranströmer’s lecture featured readings of 13 poems from throughout his career coordinated with musical accompaniment.
Tranströmer looked on as his work was set to music and sung by the Gustaf Sjöqvist’s Chamber Choir and Uppsala Chamber Soloists, among other performers. “Good poetry is a powerful thing. It can change our picture of the world, making it clearer, sharper, more comprehensible. And forever,” Englund said.
“We should not be taken in by the understated tone of Tomas Tranströmer’s poetry. Several of the real wonders of our existence are constantly present: Memory, History, Death, Nature – nature not least. But each not as an overwhelming exterior presence, nor as something that assumes life under our gaze. In your work it is the very opposite: ego, the individual, is the prism into which everything is drawn. It gives us a feeling of context, even obligation,” he continued.
“Dear Tomas, it is impossible to feel insignificant after having read your poetry. Neither is it still possible to love the world for the wrong reasons.”
“But what makes great poetry great is not only that it clarifies or reveals something already present in our world, but also that it has the ability to actually widen the boundaries of that world. Therein lies its power,” Englund said.
The first poem recited was “Minnena ser mig” (Memories Look at Me), originally published in 1983:
A June morning, too soon to wake,
too late to fall asleep again.
I must go out – the greenery is dense
with memories, they follow me with their gaze.
They can’t be seen, they merge completely with
the background, true chameleons.
They are so close that I can hear them breathe
although the birdsong here is deafening.