Monday, November 14, 2011

Tranströmer -- subtle visionary

Ross Shideler on Tomas Transtromer

My mind is fully blown by Tranströmer's poetry. It represents the ideal for me.

I used to write poems. I carved out my own style and voice, found my way into certain themes. But deep-down, I knew there was an ideal form of utterance that I could not achieve, a way of grasping existence, memory, and wonder with perfect words and subtle images. I am lacking the talent and sensibility to approach that ideal in my own work. My lines are too expressive.

I know that my ideal has to do with the strangeness of the “out there” and not about the vicissitudes or neuroses of the “in here.”

Tranströmer is somehow able to do this effortlessly. It's probably innate genius. In his work, the concrete is hallowed by an implied metaphysical resonance. The understatement is, paradoxically, revelatory and shattering.

My mind is blown by Tranströmer's poems.


  1. Isn't it fabulous have something that expands you in that way, and yet reduces (at least for yourself) what you attempt to write? It is a recipe for introduce and reduce.

  2. Hey, that's a cool way of thinking about it. Thank you for the insight.

    I read something years ago, either in an essay or a novel. About the fate of the dilettante. The chronic torment of being able to appreciate greatness but not being able to produce a thing of greatness.

    Maybe what I feel about it is ridiculous -- why be concerned with perfect quality?...why not just express what I can the best way that I can?

    I suppose for me it is this way: I can almost see where I want to go, but there is an organic obstacle preventing my forward progress. My particular consciousness is not the consciousness of those who make elevated art.

    Oh, well.... :)

  3. I think that is succinctly appreciate greatness, yet not be able to produce a thing of greatness. I suppose that is why great music or dance brings me to tears. I will never create anything as lovely as what I have experienced. I know this of myself. It is a capping off of my flow. It is the logical conclusion to an end. And it's sad...yet it is me. So I think to myself, some will never appreciate. At least I had that.

  4. I just read a couple of his poems here:

    Very nice.

    Tim, you said:
    >>I know that my ideal has to do with the strangeness of the “out there” and not about the vicissitudes or neuroses of the “in here.”

    But that's probably what I like about your poems.

    Anyway, when it comes to poetry this might be a false dichotomy. What we see out there, is often a reflection of what we see inside ... the scientist is trying to minimize this via criticism that focuses on empirical tests ... the poet is saying, no wait, it's that reflective bias *precisely* that I'm trying to catch. :)

    "It is still beautiful to feel the heart beat
    but often the shadow seems more real than the body.
    The samurai looks insignificant
    beside his armour of black dragon scales."
    -- Tomas Transtromer


    Of course, I don't mean to pretend here I really know anything. This is just the way it seems to me.

  5. Yes, Annie -- at least we have the capacity to appreciate, to experience those wonderful things made by the masters.

  6. Thanks, Matt.

    And I see your point. Since there is no pure objective "out there" for us, experience is always mediated. We weave into phenomena threads of our own being. A poem can address the "out there" as a kind of sounding board to wake up the "in here" -- awareness, wonder, epiphany.

    I realize, though, that I can't quite articulate or describe the kind of poem that Transtromer and a few others can make. Whatever it is, it seems to open up the world. It's certainly not dank confession or overwrought lyricism. And it's not trivial.