I’ve liked Transtömer since grad school, and was lucky to get to meet him before he died. I pulled his Selected Poems off the shelf last week to reread it, and I still find his quiet use of wild, alive images amazing. His poems are like sleeping squirrels—still but you know there is a ton of action below the surface just waiting to wake up. Transtömer’s work has been one of the biggest influences on my writing. Buy here.
From “Solitary Swedish Houses”
Summer with flaxen-haired rain / or one solitary thundercloud / above a barking dog. / The seed is kicking inside the earth.
From “The Palace”
Softer than the whisper in a shell / noises and voices from the town / we heard circling in the empty room, / muttering in their search for power. // Also something else. Something dark / stationed itself at the threshold / of our five senses but couldn’t pass. / Silent sand ran in the hourglass.
From “Morning Birds”
I wake my car. / Its windshield is covered with pollen. / I put on my sunglasses / and the song of the birds darkens. // While another man buys a newspaper / in the railroad station / near a large freight car / which is entirely red with rust / and stands flickering in the sun. // No emptiness anywhere here.