- Paperback: 154 pages
- Publisher: Graywolf Press; Expanded edition (May 9, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1555977839
- ISBN-13: 978-1555977832
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.4 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #160,256 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Half-Finished Heaven: Selected Poems Paperback – May 9, 2017
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“The poems of Tomas Tranströmer are points of entry 'upward into / the depths' of an imagination, a spirit that is regeneratively inventive, capacious, unillusioned, undaunted, admirable . . . This extraordinary collection of work by one of Sweden's greatest contemporary poets presents a rich sampling of verse published during the past five decades.”―The New York Times Book Review
“The Half-Finished Heaven provides a wonderful respite for world-weary readers as well as a lovely introduction to the work of Nobel Prize winning poet Tomas Tranströmer. . . . Translator Robert Bly . . . masterfully renders Tranströmer’s work. . . . Tranströmer’s perspective is refreshing, the verbal equivalent of a brisk wind or a cold stream on a hot day.”―Washington Post
"In this new updated version of his selected poems we find more than a dozen new translations from Tranströmer's strange and blue-ish work. To read these versions in 2017 is like seeing the after-image of a great work. They are eerie and beautiful and a little bit sad, like so much of Tranströmer's poetry. Heaven it seems will always be half-finished."―John Freeman, Literary Hub
About the Author
Tomas Tranströmer (1931–2015) received the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Robert Bly received the 1968 National Book Award in Poetry. Their friendship is celebrated in Airmail: The Letters of Robert Bly and Tomas Tranströmer.
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Thomas Tranströmer, the Swedish 2011 Nobelist in literature, is generally well-known among readers who make poetry part of their daily regime. Yet I did not know him until he burst upon me in a succession of moments within the span of a day. First, an essay by Teju Cole - he of the ominivorous mind and felicitous pen - on Tranströmer, in which Cole recommends him as balm for the bruised soul and commends to his readers the collection artfully translated by American poet (and longtime Tranströmer friend) Robert Bly. Later in the day, I read Emily St John Mandel's admiring review of Nicole Krauss's new novel, Forest Dark, that mentioned Krauss's admiration for Tranströmer and, in particular, the powerful prose poem "The Blue House" (curiously omitted from the Bly collection but found on Tranströmer's website, in a translation by Göran Malmqvist).
I spent the evening reading Tranströmer online, went to my local library the following day and found the Bly translations, read a few more (and purchased Bly's revised, expanded second edition) and, I have to say, puzzled over many of Tranströmer's protean, mysterious verses. But I found many others to be immediately accessible and straightforwardly transparent. Above all, and whether or not I "understood" a given poem, I was smitten, as Tranströmer's readers generally are, by his sharply etched imagery, as in, for example, the early "The Couple" (in the Bly translation):
They turn the light off, and its white globe glows
an instant and then dissovles, like a tablet
in a glass of darkness. Then a rising.
The hotel walls shoot up into heaven's darkness.
Or from a later piece, "Traffic":
The semitrailer crawls through the fog.
It is the lengthened shadow of a dragonfly larva
crawling over the murky lakebottom.
As Bly points out in one of his two useful introductions:
The poems are mysterious...Mallarmé believed there should be mystery in poetry, an urged poets to get it, if necessary, by removing the links that tie the poem to its occasion in the real world. In Tranströmer's poems the link to the worldly occasion is stubbornly kept, and yet the mystery and surprise never fade, even on many readings.
In my reading, Bly's comment seems precisely so. These poems are finely observed, filled with puzzles and surprises and memorable images, and are infintely rewarding. Some are unsettling - see, for example, "Black Postcards" - and others sunniliy uplifting and affirmational - see one of my personal favorites, the beautiful "Romanesque Arches." As a body of work, Tranströmer's poems often seem to be cross-referencing each other, the latter striking mnemoic notes that recall an earlier page.
This strikes me as a wholly unique voice and observational eye, the works of which are filled with random quirks and a seemingly tossed-off felicity, with wisdom and humor and astute social observation. Draw your own connections between the poet and the phenomenal world. For me, Tomas Tranströmer is a companion for life.
Each that I have red, reread and will reread are fine. I am not a critic by any means.
I just enjoy poetry as it gives me new insights to my own life and how I see the world
from other eyes and minds.
I add, that I am 95 and don't have time to review books I have bought.
Reading is one way of delaying death and living life's of others to expand one's own.