Thursday, October 06, 2011

Tomas Tranströmer has won the Nobel Prize in Literature

Tomas Tranströmer has won the Nobel Prize in Literature: "because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality."

After a Death
translated by Robert Bly

Once there was a shock
that left behind a long, shimmering comet tail.
It keeps us inside. It makes the TV pictures snowy.
It settles in cold drops on the telephone wires.

One can still go slowly on skis in the winter sun
through brush where a few leaves hang on.
They resemble pages torn from old telephone directories.
Names swallowed by the cold.

It is still beautiful to hear the heart beat
but often the shadow seems more real than the body.
The samurai looks insignificant
beside his armor of black dragon scales.

translated by Robert Bly

Men in overalls the same color as earth rise from a ditch.
It's a transitional place, in stalemate, neither country nor city.
Construction cranes on the horizon want to take the big leap,
        but the clocks are against it.
Concrete piping scattered around laps at the light with cold tongues.
Auto-body shops occupy old barns.
Stones throw shadows as sharp as objects on the moon surface.
And these sites keep on getting bigger
like the land bought with Judas' silver: "a potter's field for
       burying strangers."

The Couple
translated by Robert Bly

They turn the light off, and its white globe glows
an instant and then dissolves, like a tablet
in a glass of darkness. Then a rising.
The hotel walls shoot up into heaven’s darkness.

Their movements have grown softer, and they sleep,
but their most secret thoughts begin to meet
like two colors that meet and run together
on the wet paper in a schoolboy’s painting.

It is dark and silent. The city however has come nearer
tonight. With its windows turned off. Houses have come.
They stand packed and waiting very near,
a mob of people with blank faces.


At 10/06/2011 6:35 AM, Blogger Delia Psyche said...

Well, I'm pleased to hear this. He's a great poet.

This is better than the Tigers winning the World Series. If they win, I mean.

At 10/07/2011 5:06 AM, Blogger Delia Psyche said...

Here's a favorite of mine, translated from the Swedish by May Swenson and Leif Sjöberg:


Black coffee at sidewalk cafes
With chairs and tables like gaudy insects.

It is a precious sip we intercept
Filled with the same strength as Yes and No.

It is fetched out of gloomy kitchens
And looks into the sun without blinking.

In daylight a dot of wholesome black
Quickly drained by the wan patron...

Like those black drops of profundity
Sometimes absorbed by the soul

That give us a healthy push: Go!
The courage to open our eyes.

At 10/20/2011 5:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could you explain what this line means "Concrete piping scattered around laps at the light with cold tongues" in his poem?


At 10/20/2011 6:30 AM, Blogger Delia Psyche said...

I think it's a metaphor. The concrete pipes are like tongues licking up the light, which is like liquid. It's hallucinatory.

At 10/20/2011 8:23 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I’ll go with David on this. I’ll just add that how I usually make my way through such images in poems, is to make it as literal as possible:

Concrete piping scattered around laps at the light with cold tongues.

This then means that there are concrete pipes scattered around, and that they are lapping at the light, and they are lapping at the light with cold tongues.

The difficulty with such an image is that we are not used to seeing concrete pipes act this way. Well, let’s say for a moment that this is a world in which such things happen. What can we say about that world? One, concrete pipes are scattered around. That sounds like this world too. Second, they are animate. They lap at the light with cold tongues. They are living and they are lapping. Is this lapping a good or ill thing? Once you deal with that, then you understand why he’s making this image. And then you take this world, this alternate world where concrete pipes could do such a thing and you call it this world.

Then you’ve made what he’s saying happen.

At 10/20/2011 9:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response. That helps a lot. I was wondering if the cold tongue has anything to do with ocean temprature or current or just smiply cold tougue.

At 10/20/2011 10:13 AM, Blogger Delia Psyche said...

Yeah, I didn't know what you meant by "mean." Did you want someone to explicate? To tell you what's going on in the line? The line's like saying a computer printer on a lily pad slowly stuck out its wide white tongue. That's clear enough, but maybe the question is really why write a line like that? Why turn concrete pipes into tongues and printers into frogs?

At 10/20/2011 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks David, I think you and John did an excellent job in explaining the line. I was translating the poem on my blog, that was where I stumped.

Thanks again.


At 12/04/2011 8:22 AM, Anonymous Tammy said...

Such a nice piece in which this poem has its own recognition that's why it has a noble prize.It would be great thing to be awarded your work that reflects the reality today.


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