At their wedding, Suzanne and Erik seated me next to Erik’s uncle on one side and Jonathan on the other. Jonathan was into literature. In fact he wrote a poem for Suzanne and Erik that he read as a toast. (You would not believe how many toasts Swedes give at weddings. It’s an awful lot of fun!)
Jonathan knew a lot about American and English poets, and I asked him to suggest a Swedish poet that I could read in translation. I figured that Google Translate might not be optimal for poetry. He recommended Tomas Tranströmer. After the wedding, I bought Tranströmer’s The Half-Finished Heaven, translated by Robert Bly. (Who knew Robert Bly translated Swedish?)
Last week, Tranströmer was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature. Here is a short Tranströmer poem from the book, illustrated by a photo my husband took before Hurricane Earl in 2010. (The photo is called “Red Sky at Morning, Sailors Take Warning.”)
Storm, by Tomas Tranströmer
The man on a walk suddenly meets the old
giant oak like an elk turned to stone with
its enormous antlers against the dark green castle wall of the fall ocean.
Storm from the north. It’s nearly time for the
rowanberries to ripen. Awake in the night he
hears the constellations far above the oak stamping in their stalls.