Thursday, 6 October 2011

Then A Rising

Tomas Tranströmer has won the Nobel Prize for Literature today (oh hell, its National Poetry Day, but what's that got to do with real poetry?), a deserved accolade for one of the world's most compelling living poets, although in England at least - like John Ashbery, Czelaw Milosz, Adonis and Geoffrey Hill - he's perhaps a poet more lauded and debated than actually read.Tranströmer has also not always been best-served by his translators, but you can see how in the poem I'm posting here - even in this less than immaculately-crafted rendering by Robert Bly (eg. the awkwardness of "globe glows")- the characteristic timbre of dream-like resonance and destabilising eeriness of imagery glimmers hauntingly through, including two of the vividest, most unusual metaphors in all poetry:


They turn the light off, and its white globe glows
an instant and then dissolves, like a tablet
in a glass of darkness. Then a rising.
The hotel walls shoot up into heaven’s darkness.

Their movements have grown softer, and they sleep,
but their most secret thoughts begin to meet
like two colors that meet and run together
on the wet paper in a schoolboy’s painting.

It is dark and silent. The city however has come nearer
tonight. With its windows turned off. Houses have come.
They stand packed and waiting very near,
a mob of people with blank faces.

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