Ross Shideler, UCLA professor of Comparative and Scandinavian literature, discusses the Nobel Prize winner’s work
No earth tremor, but a skyquake. Turner could have painted it, secured by ropes. A single mitten whirled past right now, several miles from its hand. Facing the storm I am heading for that house on the other side of the field. I flutter in the hurricane. I am being x-rayed, my skeleton hands in its application for discharge. Panic grows while I tack about, I am wrecked, I am wrecked and drown on dry land! How heavy it is, all that I suddenly have to carry, how heavy it is for the butterfly to tow a barge! There at last. A final bout of wrestling with the door. And now inside. Behind the huge window-pane. What a strange and magnificent invention glass is—to be close without being stricken. . . Outside a horde of transparent splinters of gigantic shapes rush across the lava plain. But I flutter no more. I sit behind the glass, still, my own portrait.
“Icelandic Hurricane” by Tomas Tranströmer from The Blue House, translated from the Swedish by Göran Malmqvist, published by Thunder City Press. Copyright © 1987 by Göran Malmqvist. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Prison: Nine Haiku from Hällby Youth Prison (1959)
Translated from the Swedish by Malena Mörling. Postscript by Jonas Ellerström.
32 pages / hand-sewn pamphlet / $10.00
Tomas Tranströmer worked for several years as a psychologist for juvenile delinquents. In 1959 he visited his colleague Åke Nordin, who was also a poet, at the Hällby youth prison in the southern part of Sweden. Later that year he sent Nordin a sequence of nine haiku, giving his impressions of the prison milieu. These poems were rediscovered in 2001 and are presented here in a bilingual edition.
By Bob Minzesheimer, USA TODAY
Nothing like the Nobel Prize for Literature to boast a poet’s reputation — and readership.
A day after Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer was awarded the 2011 prize, one of his American publishers, Ecco, a division of HarperCollins, announced it’s reissuing two volumes of his poetry: For The Living and the Dead: A Memoir and Poems, and Selected Poems, edited by Robert Hass.
Both titles will be reissued in paperback next week, with e-books to follow.
Tranströmer’s other English translations include The Sorrow Gondola (published by Green Integer), The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems (New Directions), and The Half-Finished Heaven: The Best Poems of Tomas Tranströmer (Graywolf).
Tranströmer suffered a stroke two decades ago, which affected his ability to speak, though he has continued to write.
Ecco Publisher Daniel Halpern, who first published Tranströmer in 1987, said in a statement, “So much poetry, not only in this country but everywhere, too often feels small and exclusively confessional – it doesn’t look outward, it looks back at itself. But there are some poets who write a true international poetry and Tomas is among them. It’s his particular sensibility that runs through the poems that’s so deeply seductive. What a wonderful writer he is – lyrical and open, curious and intelligent.”
Hass, a former U.S. poet laureate who edited Tranströmer’s Selected Poems, writes of him, “Perhaps more than any other living poet, Tranströmer conveys a sense of what it is to be a private citizen anywhere in the second half of the twentieth century.”
By Emily Witt 10/10 3:34pm
When Barbara Epler received the news last week that Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer had won the Nobel Prize for literature, she had one reaction: “I said, ‘Call the printers!’” she recalled.
Ms. Epler is the president of New Directions, publisher of Mr. Tranströmer’s The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems, an anthology translated by the Scottish poet Robin Fulton. For New Directions, Mr. Tranströmer’s win was big news — by Friday its book was ranked #12 on Amazon, a rarity for the independent publisher, which is known for its commitment to publishing difficult poetry and literature in translation.
“For a poetry book to be number 12 that just kills me,” said Ms. Epler, adding that while Mr. Tranströmer “sells perfectly well in our terms” the spike in sales last week was positively “stratospheric.” In response, New Directions quickly arranged to have an additional 1,500 copies of The Great Enigma printed for shipment by tomorrow, forcing its short run publisher to work through the Columbus Day holiday. Another 8,000 copies will follow in a few weeks.
In Minneapolis, Graywolf Press, the independent publisher of The Half-finished Heaven: The Best Poems of Tomas Tranströmer, selected and translated by the poet Robert Bly, celebrated the award with scones and muffins. Then they went to work. “We were all pretty busy actually,” said Graywolf publicity director Erin Kottke. “We didn’t have time to really revel in it because we were scrambling to figure out what the next step was.” Graywolf’s reprint is now also underway: 10,000 copies with a Nobel Prize sticker on the cover for release in three weeks and a planned second printing with an amended cover to follow.
- Published 02:48 11.10.11
- Latest update 02:48 11.10.11
The decision to award the Nobel Prize in Literature to Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer is a declaration of faith in poetry’s power to transcend borders.
By Eli Eliahu
“And I take the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature, when it is given to a poet, to be primarily an assertion of the supra-national value of poetry. To make that affirmation, it is necessary from time to time to designate a poet: and I stand before you, not on my own merits, but as a symbol, for a time, of the significance of poetry.”
It has been over 60 years since T.S. Eliot said the above in his speech at the Nobel Prize banquet. Since then, a few other poets have won the prize, including Wislawa Szymborska and Seamus Heaney, and now once again a poet has been awarded the prize, this time the Swedish poet, Tomas Transtromer. It seems that Eliot’s remarks are more relevant than ever, and the decision to award the Nobel Prize in Literature to a poet indeed is not just an award to the poet himself, but also an award to the significance of poetry and a renewed declaration of faith in its power to transcend borders and have an impact even in times when the value of things is measured solely by the number of people interested in them.
The name of Transtromer, who was born in 1931, has been mentioned as a candidate for several years now, but his win is still seen as a surprise. He is not exactly apolitical, but his poetry does not represent clear-cut non-conformism the way the works of other Nobel laureates did, such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn or Joseph Brodsky. Nor is the selection perceived as representing the people’s voice, the way works of Seamus Heaney or Derek Walcott are. Not everyone therefore deems Transtromer as a worthy choice. The Telegraph‘s Philip Hensher noted, for example, “that time has shown every single Swedish winner of the prize to be ‘a little phenomenon of no interest’ outside their own country.”
Poets Adonis (Ali Ahmed Said), Syria, and Tomas Tranströmer, Sweden
Poets lead running for Nobel Literature prize
By Simon Johnson
STOCKHOLM | Tue Oct 4, 2011 9:11pm EDT
(Reuters) – Two poets, one Swedish and the other Syrian, are leading the betting to win the 2011 Nobel Literature prize, a bookmaker said on Tuesday, though past prizes have often defied the predictions.
British betting firm Ladbrokes have the 81-year-old Syrian poet known as Adonis at odds of 4/1 and Swede Tomas Transtromer, 80, at 7/1 to win the 10 million crown ($1.5 million) prize, to be announced on October6. Japan’s Haruki Murakami was third at 8/1.
All three have been on the betting list of candidates before, but an award to Adonis, a champion of democracy and secular thought, would chime well with Arab Spring revolts in several Middle Eastern nations — though he has not been without his critics who view his support for the uprisings as too muted.
Apart from his political engagement, Khaled Mattawa, who has translated many of Adonis’ works into English, said the Syrian — named Ali Hamid Saeed at birth — deserved to be recognised for his artistry.