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Posted January 19, 2007
The Scandinavian World of the Sea and the Elements of Nature
Tomas Tranströmer is a Swedish poet who is one of the strongest and most frequently honored artists of the time. Robin Fulton has translated and curated the bulk of Tranströmer's published poems in this magnificent book THE GREAT ENIGMA: NEW COLLECTED POEMS and it is a rare treat. In one tome are some of the most moving conversations with and about nature this reader has ever read. Tranströmer's ability to alter the landscape of the sea and the cliffs, the islands and havens, with an imagination that defies comparison: it is a staggering achievement. Able to succeed in both the very short and the epic form, he finds those niches in our psyches and makes them into words we could never generate. 'It's spring and the air is very strong. I have graduated from the university of oblivion and am as empty-handed as the shirt on the clothesline.' Perhaps it is his training and practice as a psychologist that allows his entry into our heads the way few other poets can achieve. A solid (yet one of many equally powerful) examples would be the following 'Sailor's Yarn': 'There are bare winter days when the sea is kin to mountain/ country, crouching in grey plumage, a grief minute blue,/ long hours with waves like pale lynxes vainly seeking/ hold in the beach gravel./ On such a day wrecks might come from the sea searching/ for their owners, settling in the town's din, and drowned/ crews blow landward, thinner than pipe smoke./ (The real lynxes are in the north, with sharpened claws/ and dreaming eyes. In the north, where day lives in/ a mine both day and night./ Where the sole survivor may sit at the borealis stove/ and listen to the music of those frozen to death.)' Few collections of poetry are as satisfying as this and to Robin Fulton's translations must go a lot of the credit. This book is stimulus for the adventurous imagination as well as for the lover of great sea songs. Highly recommended. Grady Harp
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