The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems
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The collected poems of one of the world's greatest living writers, Tomas Transtromer, available in this comprehensive edition.
In day's first hours consciousness can grasp the world
as the hand grips a sun-warmed stone.
Translated into fifty languages, the poetry of Tomas Transtromer has had a profound influence around the world, an influence that has steadily grown and has now attained a prominence comparable to that of Pablo Neruda's during his lifetime. But if Neruda is blazing fire, Transtromer is expanding ice. The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems gathers all the poems Tomas Transtromer has published, from his distinctive first collection in 1954, 17 Poems, through his epic poem Baltics ("my most consistent attempt to write music"), and The Sad Gondola, published six years after he suffered a debilitating stroke in 1990 ("I am carried in my shadow / like a violin / in its black case."), to his most recent slim book, The Great Enigma, published in Sweden in 2004. Also included is his prose-memoir Memories Look at Me, containing keys into his intensely spiritual, metaphysical poetry (like the brief passage of insect collecting on Runmaro Island when he was a teenager). Firmly rooted in the natural world, his work falls between dream and dream; it probes "the great unsolved love" with the opening up, through subtle modulations, of "concrete words."
at the sea’s door gleaming in the vulture’s telescopic sight. • III • Secrets on the Way Daylight struck the face of a man who slept. His dream was more vivid but he did not wake. Darkness struck the face of a man who walked among the others in the sun’s strong impatient rays. It was suddenly dark, like a downpour. I stood in a room that contained every moment— a butterfly museum. And the sun still as strong as before. Its impatient brushes were painting the world.
the watchtower’s heavy steps perplexed the forest. • The tall doors swing back. We’re inside the prison yard in a new season. • The wall lamps are lit— the night-flier sees a smudge of unreal brightness. • An enormous truck rumbles past at night. The dreams of inmates tremble. • The boy drinks milk and sleeps securely in his cell, a mother of stone. THE HALF-FINISHED HEAVEN DEN HALVFÄRDIGA HIMLEN 1962 • I • The Couple They switch off the light
and immediately announced the presence of a distinct poetic personality. The three longer pieces that conclude the collection suggest a kind of poetic ambition which the young Tranströmer soon lost—his notes on my first version of “Elegy,” for instance, contain remarks like: “This poem was written by a romantic 22-year-old!” and “Oh dear, how complicated I was in my younger days. . . .” But the very first poem, suitably called “Prelude,” reveals a quality characteristic of all his writing: the
wings clattered up—that was all. You go alone. A tall building that consists entirely of cracks, a building that is perpetually tottering but can never collapse. The thousandfold sun floats in through the cracks. In this play of light an inverted law of gravity prevails: the house is anchored in the sky and whatever falls, falls upward. There you can turn around. There you are allowed to grieve. You can dare to face certain old truths otherwise kept packed, in storage. The roles I have, deep
Incognita. Breathe calmly . . . An unknown blue material is nailed to the chairs. The gold studs flew in with incredible speed and stopped abruptly as if they had never been other than stillness. Ears sing, from depth or height. It’s the pressure from the other side of the wall. It makes each fact float and steadies the brush. It hurts to go through walls, it makes you ill but is necessary. The world is one. But walls . . . And the wall is part of yourself— we know or we don’t know