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RE: (TV) Tomas Transtromer (was: Tomas Transtrvmer)
The following poem is by Tomas Transtromer. See if you all don't
think it could be a Verlaine song lyric:
I wake my car.
It's windshield is covered by 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 goods wagon
which is entirely red with rust
and stands flickering in the sun.
No emptiness anywhere here.
Straight across the spring warmth a cold corridor
where someone comes hurrying
to say that they are slandering him
all the way up to the Director.
Through a backdoor in the landscape
comes the magpie
black and white, Hel's bird
And the blackbird moving crisscross
until everything becomes a charcoal drawing,
except for the white sheets on the clothesline:
a Palestrina choir.
No emptiness anywhere here.
-- Tomas Transtromer, translated by Gunnar Harding
and Frederic Will
OK, here are the points of similarity:
* Both use a lot of images, many of them unexpected
* Both often write in the first person
* Both juxtapose images from nature with urban images
and social vignette ("slandering him all the way
up to the Director").
* Both use surrealist elements (not so much in the quoted
poem, but in others)
* Verlaine uses more verbal wit (at least than survives
translation from Transtromer's Swedish).
* Verlaine uses rhyme (no idea if Transtromer in the original
does, or Swedish poetry in general, uses rhyme, but the
translations I saw do not).
* Verlaine has to be concerned about song structure: e.g.
verse chorus verse chorus.
* Poetry in translation always has a second-hand quality
to it, with verbal and metrical effects absent or muted.
It does look to me like Transtromer in translation could be a real
influence on Verlaine's style. So many thanks to Leif Joley for
bringing him up and to Jim Kaufman for supplying these details!
I wonder how much is lost by these English translations? None of
the ones I saw used any kind of formalism of any kind (meter, rhyme,
stanza form). The quoted poem is the only one that had a sort of
refrain. Wonder if this "free verse" approach is Transtromer or
Being influence by poetry in translation does have its dangers, like
flat language or forced diction (hey, I won't give Verlaine a
reason to say "you complain of my diction").
This analysis is based on reading only about a dozen poems by
Transtromer in a non-scholarly translation, so please take it with
a grain of salt.
"Jim Kauffman" <email@example.com> wrote:
> I have a couple of Transtromer's books of poetry. My favorite is Truth
> Barriers, 1980, translated by Robert Bly. There's also a Selected Poems that
> covers seven volumes of his work.
> It's not a great comparison, but I'd say he's a bit Gary Snyder, a bit
> Galway Kinnell, and a bit Theodore Roetke. Good stuff.
> Like Tom says, his work has held up well over the years.
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