Hi poets from all across the globe!
I’m back from a winter hiatus up in the far north, with snowstorms and being weather locked in remote cabins. Spending your time without electricity or coverage let you focus on the essentials of being human, like food, warmth and company. Now I’m back with a little bar-talk, where we are trying to give you poetry from different parts of the world.
Just before I left for the mountains, one of our great Swedish poets died, and if you are living in a country that seemed devoid of poems in everyday life it was amazing to hear his poems being read on the radio many times per day. I am of course talking about Tomas Tranströmer, our latest Nobel laureate. It can often seem like giving the Nobel prize to a Swede is a little weird, but this time it seemed like the respect of him as a poet made very few mentioned nepotism. Tomas Tranströmer was a loved poet.
He was born in 1931 and combined poetry writing with being a practicing psychiatrist and translator. His poetry often combine the mystery of life with with everyday contemporary metaphors. You can read more about him here. What I find myself is that his poems often translates very well into many other languages (over 60 languages), and is considered one of the most influential poets from Scandinavia in modern times. There has to be a reason why his poems translates so well, and to me it is obvious that his use of metaphors and images that are both simple and stunning at the same time, makes the meaning apparent across language barriers. Many of his poems have been translated to English by Robert Bly.
Consider for instance:
After a Death
Once there was a shock
that left behind a long, shimmering comet tail.
It keeps us inside. It makes the TV pictures snowy.
It settles in cold drops on the telephone wires.
One can still go slowly on skis in the winter sun
through brush where a few leaves hang on.
They resemble pages torn from old telephone directories.
Names swallowed by the cold.
It is still beautiful to hear the heartbeat
but often the shadow seems more real than the body.
The samurai looks insignificant
beside his armor of black dragon scales.
The lines about the pages torn from old telephone directions for instance are so vivid in connection to the sorrow one feels after the death of a close friend.
After a stroke that left him partly paralyzed in 1990 Tomas Tranströmer wrote mostly shorter poems, and have made contributions to haiku poetry by incorporating his unique imagery and have injected inspiration all the way back to Japan.
Oak trees and the moon.
Light and mute constellations.
And the frigid sea.
So today’s subject for the bar: How do you come up with those stunning images. similes and metaphors? How do you create them? and how do you refrain from using them as tropes? How do you avoid metaphors that seem constructed or artificial?