Sunday, March 29, 2015

tomas transtromer [1931 - 2015]

i've never met transtromer but i feel, like all of us i'm sure who have been touched by his poetry, i knew him.  of course, this has to do with his searingly lucid poems, but also, for me his devotion as a clinical psychologist.  in an interview transtromer snapped at the question, how has your job influenced your poetry?  the poet responded, why doesn't anybody ask me how my poems influence my job?  for me, a poet who lives and works outside of academe, transtromer's embrace of his dayjob was fortifying.  many of his poems deal with his work and with the role of work in our daily lives.

1998; my first trip abroad.  my first landing in stockholm.  the city was celebrating an arts festival.  rainbow flags adorned the streets in support of gay rights.  in a brochure i read about a transtromer self-guiding tour.  see the city thru the eyes and words of transtromer.  i went to the tourist bureau to find out about this tour.  i didn't manage to go.

i did pick up transtromer's collected dikter in a small paperback.  i don't read swedish.  but having the poet's book printed in his native language on my shelves -- in 2002, on another excursion to sverige, i bought the hardback collected letters between robert bly and transtromer, air mail, in swedish too -- influenced, i am convinced, my books and my poetry.

by his example, in poetry and making a living wage, i am deeply indebted to tomas transtromer.  a little piece from his poem 'guard duty' has become a mantra for me.

task: to be where i am.
even when i am in this solemn and absurd
role: i am still the place
where creation works on itself.

i copied out this section in my own goofy lower-case type for these words have become part of my mental architecture.  my physical dna.  i can't think of a better epitaph for this extraordinary poet.  in fact, i know of no higher praise.


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