Memoir Tranströmer

Steven Ford Brown

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I corresponded sporadically with Monica and Tomas Tranströmer in Sweden after they left. I would not see Tomas again until 1988 after I moved from Texas to Boston, Massachusetts. In Cambridge, I was invited to be a Board member of the New England Poetry Club, founded in 1915 at Harvard University by Conrad Aiken, Robert Frost, and Amy Lowell. After its founding, The Poetry Club quickly became one of the most prominent literary institutions in New England, sponsoring a reading series that is now the oldest continuous reading series in the United States. Within a year of joining the Board, I used my previous non-profit grant writing experience to write a successful request of $5,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C., to support the reading series. The NEA grant included a stipend and travel expenses to bring Tomas from Sweden to Cambridge.

Tomas Tranströmer read to a large audience in a seminar room at Harvard University in Cambridge. More than 200 people filled seats and lined walls as he read. In reading, Tomas provided explanations of his poems and used his dry sense of humor to add levity. And then there were the poems: the beautiful, luminous, remarkable poems.

The after-party was at the Cambridge home of Diana Der Hovanessian, President of the New England Poetry Club. I made my way through the party to Tomas. He remarked how strange it was to have previously seen me in the flat, dry landscape of Texas and now again in New England’s snowy landscape. He was in robust health and engaged with the party people.

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