On my “About page”, I’ve stated I’m not a «poetry person». That’s not entirely true. Most of the time, I just don’t understand … when there are just words, stacked, one on top of the other… or that’s what it appears to me. They may have a deeper meaning that eludes me. There are times, though, when I fall for, either a single poem, or a poet … and then I fall hard.
Last November, I came across a poem in one of my Swedish groups in Facebook. It was posted for All Souls Day, so it’s about death. It’s so extremely beautiful, the words are quite simple so I thought I’d try and translate it. Well … it’s February now, and I’m still not finished. I keep going back, altering … pondering … I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get it like a poem in English — meaning, with the rhythm, the mood and all that.
This lead me to think of the person who translated my all-time favourite poet, and Nobel Prize recipient, Tomas Tranströmer. I believe it was one of his best friends, an American [Robert Bly], who translated his work into English (example below). There’s even a book about their friendship. When I read them, first in Swedish and then in English, I’m truly amazed. Even more so now, after my attempt with the «In Memoriam» poem. I didn’t discover his greatness until after he’d just died. It started with one, short, little poem I found somewhere … it struck me how he managed to say so much, in so few words [almost like Hemingway’s six-words-poem]. Now, I’ve read, not most, but a great deal of his work.
So, even though I think I have a pretty good command of the English language … there’s no way I could become a poetry translator, and they who do it have my greatest admiration.
|Mitt i livet händer det att döden kommer
och tar mått på människan. Det besöket
glöms och livet fortsätter. Men kostymen
sys i det tysta.
|Halfway through your life, death turns up and takes your pertinent measurements.
We forget the visit. Life goes on.
But someone is sewing the suit in the silence.
Translated by Robert Bly