For the Living and the Dead

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With this new volume of poetry, Tomas Transtromer once again demonstrates his gift for capturing and grounding the elusive, luminous details of our modern world. As its title suggests, For the Living and the Dead works to bridge the space between those real and unreal elements of life, suggesting that a surprising, redemptive cohesion can exist within a universe of opposing forces.

Transtromer has referred to his poems as "meeting places," with "their intent to make a sudden ...

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Overview

With this new volume of poetry, Tomas Transtromer once again demonstrates his gift for capturing and grounding the elusive, luminous details of our modern world. As its title suggests, For the Living and the Dead works to bridge the space between those real and unreal elements of life, suggesting that a surprising, redemptive cohesion can exist within a universe of opposing forces.

Transtromer has referred to his poems as "meeting places," with "their intent to make a sudden connection between aspects of reality that conventional languages and outlooks ordinarily keep apart. Large and small details of the landscape meet, divided cultures and people flow together in a work of art. . ." People and objects alike are given a certain weightiness, their presence filled with a potential carefully measured by the poet's eye and quietly attested to by his language. In "Vermeer," "The airy sky has taken its place leaning against the wall. /It is like a prayer to what is empty./ And what is empty turns its face to us/ and whispers/ 'I am not empty, I am open.'"

This volume combines Transtromer's recent poetry with a prose memoir of his childhood in Sweden, written in the same careful, unsentimental voice for which he is so beloved. Through this memoir the author reveals himself as a curious, sensitive child, interested in archeology and insects, terrified of school and his authoritarian teachers.

Characterized by the insight and integrity we have come to expect from his work, For the Living and the Dead confirms Tomas Transtromer as one of the most significant living poets writing in any language.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Recent poems and a prose memoir by the noted contemporary Swedish poet, translated by Samuel Charters, Robin Fulton, Malena Morling, and Robert Bly. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780880014366
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/1/1995
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 71
  • Product dimensions: 6.37 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Tomas Transtromer, recipient of the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature, was born in Stockholm in 1931 and is a psychologist by profession. One of Sweden’s most distinguished poets, he has also received the Bonnier Poetry Prize and the Petrarch Prize in Germany. He lives in Stockholm with his wife, Monica.

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Read an Excerpt

THE FORGOTTEN CAPTAIN

We have many shadows. I was on the way home
in the September night when Y
climbed out of his grave after forty years
and kept me company.

At first he was entirely empty, only a name,
but his thoughts swam
faster than the time ran
and caught up to us.

I put his eyes to mine and saw
the sea in wartime.
The last boat he commanded
grew beneath us.

The ships of the Atlantic convoy crept before and behind,
the ones that would survive
and the ones that had been given The Mark
(invisible to everyone)

while the sleepless nights relieved each other
but never him.
The life jacket sat under the oil skin.
He never came home.

He bled to death from an inner weeping
in a hospital in Cardiff.
He finally got to lie down
and turn into horizon.

Goodbye eleven knot convoys! Goodbye 1940!
Here ends the history of the world.
The bombing planes were left hanging.
The heaths bloomed.

The photo from the turn of the century shows a beach.
Standing there are six dressed up boys.
They have sailboats in their arms.
What serious expressions!

The boats that become life and death for some of them.
And to write about the dead
is also a game that gets heavy
with what is to come.

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Table of Contents

The Forgotten Captain 3
Streets in Shanghai 5
The Nightingale in Badelunda 7
Berceuse 8
Deep in Europe 9
Six Winters 10
Romanesque Arches 11
Epigram 12
Female Portrait, 19th Century 13
Motifs from the Middle Ages 14
Madrigal 15
The Kingdom of Uncertainty 16
Early May Stanzas 17
Silence 18
Golden Wasp 19
Grief Gondola No. 2 21
Memories Look at Me: A Memoir 25
As When You Were a Child 49
April and Silence 50
Night Book Page 51
Three Stanzas 52
Landscape with Suns 53
From July - 90 54
Leaflet 55
The Cuckoo 56
Two Cities 57
After a Visit to the DDR 58
Air Mail 59
Nocturnal Journey 60
A Sketch from 1844 61
Eight Haiku 62
The Light Streams In 64
Island Life, 1860 65
Within the Walls Is Endlessness 66
Vermeer 69
About the Author 71
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