tomas tranströmer | april and silence

3 04 2008


Poetry Dispatch No. 225 | April 3, 2008


Poets, writers, friends, readers…if you do not have at least one book by the Swedish poet, Tomas Tranströmer on your shelves, your library is incomplete. Norbert Blei


April and Silence by Tomas Tranströmer

Spring lies deserted.
The dark velvet ditch
creeps by my side
not reflecting anything.

All that shines
are yellow flowers.

I am carried in my shadow
like a violin
in its black case.

All I want to say
gleams out of reach
like the silver
in a pawnshop

[translated by Malena Mörling]


Tomas Tranströmer (born April 15, 1931) is a Swedish writer, poet and translator, whose poetry has been deeply influential in Sweden, as well as around the world.

Tranströmer received his secondary education at the Södra Latin School in Stockholm and graduated as a psychologist from Stockholm University in 1956. He began writing at thirteen, and published his first collection of poems, 17 dikter (Seventeen Poems) in 1954. His latest collection, Den stora gåtan (The Great Enigma), was published in 2004, and an English translation of his entire body of work, The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems, was published in 2006. He published a short autobiography, Minnena ser mig (The memories are watching me), in 1993.

Other poets – especially in the “political” 70’s – accused him for being apart from his tradition and not including political issues in his poems and novels. His work, though, lies within and further develops the Modernist and Expressionist/Surrealist language of 20th century poetry; his clear, seemingly simple pictures from everyday life and nature in particular reveals a mystic insight to the universal aspects of the human mind.

Tranströmer and the American poet Robert Bly are close friends and their correspondence has been published in the book Air Mail.

In 1990, he suffered a stroke that affects his speech, but he continues to write. He has often been mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and many consider him one of Sweden’s foremost poets. Tranströmer’s awards include the Bonnier Award for Poetry, the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the Oevralids Prize, the Petrach Prize in Germany, and the Swedish Award from International Poetry Forum. His poetry has been translated into fifty languages; Bly, Robin Fulton, and the prominent American blues writer Samuel Charters have translated his work into English.

In 2007, Tranströmer received a special Lifetime Recognition Award given by the trustees of the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry, which also awards the annual Griffin Poetry Prize.

In addition to his work as a writer, Tranströmer was also a respected psychologist before he had his stroke. He worked in juvenile prisons, and with disabled, convicts, and drug addicts. He is also a good piano player, something he has been able to continue after his stroke, albeit with one hand.

Collected poems

  • * 17 dikter (1954) – Seventeen Poems
  • * Hemligheter på vägen (1958)
  • * Den halvfärdiga himlen (1962) – The Half-Finished Heaven
  • * Klanger och spår (1966) – Windows and Stones
  • * Mörkerseende (1970) – Night Vision
  • * Stigar (1973) – Paths
  • * Östersjöar (1974) – Baltics
  • * Sanningsbarriären (1978)
  • * Det vilda torget (1983)
  • * För levande och döda (1989) – For the Living and the Dead
  • * Sorgegondolen (1996)
  • * Den stora gåtan (2004)
  • * The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems (2006) – Translated by Robin Fulton




8 responses

9 04 2008
Ron Offen

Thanks for reminding me of Transtromer. A great, deep poet that never fails to bring me closer and closer to the ideal of poetry. That goal can’t be achjieved, of course, but what a wonderful quest with a poet like Transtromer. Keep up the fine work.
Best, Ron

5 03 2010

I´ve played on that piano! (in his home.) The tone is so loud I nearly fell off the chair! (the Tranströmers probably thought I was a horrible piano abuser. Banging like mad!) Anyway, he has done 2 CD-recordings with piano pieces for the left hand! (with his poems read by a Swedish actor in between.) He has collected left hand pieces for some time. (by classical composers.) And has a 100 or so! (in music sheets.)
Greetings from a Swedish pianist and musicologist
who is a friend of Tomas!
(writes a bit of poetry too)
P.S. Want to hear him read some of his poems in English? (and comment them.) Search on YouTube on “Tomas Tranströmer – Schubertiana”!

6 10 2011
Henry Denander

I had lunch with Sam Charters here in Stockholm today and just before one o’clock I said to Sam, shouldn’t we turn on the TV and see who’s won the Nobel Prize and two minutes later we heard Tomas Tranströmer’s name read out and we were screaming with joy, it was special for Sam who has known Tranströmer since 1972 and who has worked together with him and translated his poetry….wow, even I had tears in my eyes!

16 08 2010
Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation » Blog Archive » 2010 Festival Poet: Malena Mörling

[…] extensively from Swedish into English including the work of Tomas Tranströmer – see “April and Silence.” This might explain why her works seeks to transport readers into a new consciousness. In the […]

6 10 2011
Tomas Tranströmer; Premio Nobel de Literatura

[…] de vosotros al leer este artículo no entenderéis que tiene ver Tomas Tranströmer en este blog. No os vamos a engañar, absolutamente nada. Solo queríamos homenajear a él reciente […]

6 10 2011
Leonard Cirino

Yes, he’s a great one and been a favorite for years. I’ll have to go back to his work and glean, thanks, Leonard

21 02 2012
Stone Circles Drop-In Celebration | Poet in the City

[…] The Mill, The Stone, The Water John Burnside – Neo-classical Tomas Transtromer – April and Silence Alison Longley – Stone Circle Norman Nicholson – The Monolith Roger Thrush (poet in […]

13 03 2015
Package Words

[…] (to mix metaphors) of “package words”—it’s a relief to return to poetry. Tomas Tranströmer*, for example, writing about Schubert: We squeeze together at the piano and play with four hands in […]

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