15 January 2012

A tremolo rises

A funny gift coincidence, this Christmas. For the longest time, a few years perhaps, I've had a volume of Tomas Tranströmer's poetry, The Great Enigma, languishing at the bottom of my Amazon wish list. I hadn't read much of his work, but what I'd read always made me want to explore more of the Swedish poet's writing. So when I came across that very book the day that I defended my thesis, as I wandered around town happily, I bought it without hesitation as a little "go Dr. me!" reward.

A couple of weeks later, opening gifts from my parents, what should I unwrap but the very same book! I had even been careful to delete it from my Amazon list after I bought it, but my mom had her shopping done early this year, and for whatever reason that was the one she chose to get. Accurately, it turns out, guessing that I really wanted it if it had been on the list for so long (she's very good at picking out good gifts)--too accurately in this case, as I never dreamed anyone would go for that one instead of the cookbooks or new novels also on my list.

In fact, I had been worried that I'd get a duplicate copy of Haruki Murakami's 1Q84, since the Mister gave me that as a present just before we left for the US when we had our little family Christmas. I've just started delving into it this week, with all the anticipation that a nice fat hardcover of a favorite writer brings, and I'm already loving it. All the hallmarks of Murakami's fantastic blend of real and surreal are there, even in the first pages, as one main character, whose odd name means "green peas," climbs down off a gridlocked freeway via an emergency ladder, and another is tapped to rewrite a young author's literary prize entry.

Anyway, back to Tranströmer. I realize it's been a very long time indeed since last I posted any poetry here, so I thought a selection from him today would be nice. It was below freezing but a bright sunny sky as we walked to church this morning, the kind of cold air that hits you hard but makes you somehow happy. I think Tranströmer captures that in this little winter poem, and surprises you in the end with a comparison to a summertime experience.

There Is Peace in the Surging Prow
~by Tomas Tranströmer

On a winter morning you feel how this earth
plunges ahead. Against the house walls
an air current smacks
out of hiding.

Surrounded by movement: the tent of calm.
And the secret helm in the migrating flock.
Out of the winter gloom
a tremolo rises

from hidden instruments. It is like standing
under summer's high lime tree with the din
of ten thousand
insect wings above your head.

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