Under Pressure by Tomas Tranströmer

The blue sky’s engine-drone is deafening.
We’re living here on a shuddering work-site
where the ocean depths can suddenly open up –
shells and telephones hiss.

You can see beauty only from the side, hastily,
The dense grain on the field, many colours in a yellow stream.
The restless shadows in my head are drawn there.
They want to creep into the grain and turn to gold.

Darkness falls. At midnight I go to bed.
The smaller boat puts out from the larger boat.
You are alone on the water.
Society’s dark hull drifts further and further away.

from New Collected Poems, translated by Robin Fulton (Bloodaxe Books, 1997/2011)

One of the more curious things to come out of the Swedish celebrations of Tomas Tranströmer’s recent Nobel Prize in Literature was a temporary exhibit at the Stockholm Museum of Natural History, of Tranströmer’s boyhood insect collection.

Tranströmer says of his days collecting beetles, in his autobiographical Memories Look at Me (1993):

“I moved in the great mystery. I learned that the ground was alive, that there was an infinite world of creeping and flying things living their own rich life without paying the least regard to us. I caught a fraction of a fraction of that world and pinned it down in my boxes… they’re sitting there, those insects. As if biding their time.”

Hear him read some (both Swedish & English) in 1981

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