The Great Enigma: New and Collected Poems

Tomas Transtromer, Author, Robin Fulton, Translator
Tomas Transtromer, Author, Robin Fulton, Translator , trans. from the Swedish by Robin Fulton. New Directions $16.95 (262p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1672-2
Reviewed on: 09/18/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-8112-2017-0
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The major contemporary poet of Scandinavia, and a perennial Nobel Prize candidate (so rumor has it), Tranströmer and his compact, sometimes grim lyricism have long enjoyed a serious following in the United States. This version from the Scot Fulton (whose first Tranströmer selection appeared in 1987) contains everything Tranströmer has published in book form. Tranströmer's preferred land- and seascapes, drawn from the "spruce-clad coastland" of his native Sweden, have not changed much over his 50-year career: flat seas and frosty storms, swarming birds and contrapuntally beautiful summers, from which "society's dark hull drifts further and further away." His forms, however, have varied impressively: Sapphic stanzas, haiku, imagist lyric, prose sketches and several-page sequences all speak to one another. A clear competitor to Bly's well-received The Half-Finished Heaven (2001), this more comprehensive collection concludes with the rarely seen short poems of Tranströmer's recent years. Some will note political undercurrents ("The language marches in step with the executioners./ Therefore we must get a new language"), yet Tranströmer's dominant moods are almost warily inward-turning while given to hope: "I find myself in the deep corridor/ that would have been dark," the poet declares, "if my right hand wasn't shining like a torch." (Oct.)

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