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Friends, You Drank Some Darkness, Three Swedish Poets: Harry Martinson, Gunnar Ekelöf & Tomas Tranströmer

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Robert Bly, one of America's most accomplished poets and translators, considers and translates the work of Harry Martinson, co-recepient of the 1974 Nobel Prize for Literature, and two other Swedish poets, Gunnar Ekelof and Tomas Transtromer. Robert Bly, one of America's most accomplished poets and translators, considers and translates the work of Harry Martinson, co-recepient of the 1974 Nobel Prize for Literature, and two other Swedish poets, Gunnar Ekelof and Tomas Transtromer.


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Robert Bly, one of America's most accomplished poets and translators, considers and translates the work of Harry Martinson, co-recepient of the 1974 Nobel Prize for Literature, and two other Swedish poets, Gunnar Ekelof and Tomas Transtromer. Robert Bly, one of America's most accomplished poets and translators, considers and translates the work of Harry Martinson, co-recepient of the 1974 Nobel Prize for Literature, and two other Swedish poets, Gunnar Ekelof and Tomas Transtromer.

30 review for Friends, You Drank Some Darkness, Three Swedish Poets: Harry Martinson, Gunnar Ekelöf & Tomas Tranströmer

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dave Schaafsma

    I read this book because 1) I have read all my life the poetry of Robert Bly, including 2) his translations, and this is one book I think I never read. It features the poetry of three Swedish poets, Harry Martinson, Gunnar Ekelöf & Tomas Tranströmer. Martinson was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature n 1974, and Tranströmer was awarded the Nobel in 2011. A pretty small country for that kind of recognition, eh? I also read it 3) because I had read Tranströmer’s The Half-Finished Heaven and thou I read this book because 1) I have read all my life the poetry of Robert Bly, including 2) his translations, and this is one book I think I never read. It features the poetry of three Swedish poets, Harry Martinson, Gunnar Ekelöf & Tomas Tranströmer. Martinson was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature n 1974, and Tranströmer was awarded the Nobel in 2011. A pretty small country for that kind of recognition, eh? I also read it 3) because I had read Tranströmer’s The Half-Finished Heaven and thought I would like to see his work in the context of his fellow poets’ work. I have a musty library copy of the Seventies Press edition of this book, which I loved reading/smelling. I love and have always loved Bly, so I didn’t mind that some of the poetry reads like Bly; that’s the peril/virtue of translation. It’s not science. Poets write (and translate poetry into) poetry. I also 4) loved Bly’s title of this book! 1. Martinson’s poetry was unfamiliar to me. His father died, his mother emigrated to the U.S. and left him to be raised by various people; he went to sea and wrote much of his work out of that, with a focus on nature: "Power" (1931): The engineer sits by the big wheel, all through the June night, reading. The power station mumbles introverted in the turbines, its leafy, embedded heart beats calm and strong. The timid birch stands tall by the concrete mouth of the dam; not a leaf quivers. The hedgehog slobbers along the river bank. The guard's cat listens hungrily to birdsong. And the power whistles away along a hundred miles of wire before it suddenly rumbles down into the braggart cities. Translation, Robert Bly 2. I didn’t really know the poetry of Gunnar Ekelöf at all; his is work that draws on surrealism and the poetry of Persia (Iran). I liked it quite a bit, that mashing of Asian and surrealist mysticism: "The Flowers Doze in the Window” (1932) The flowers doze in the window and the lamp gazes / light the window gazes with thoughtless eyes out into the / dark paintings exhibit without soul the thought confided / to then and houseflies stand still on the walls and think the flowers lean into the night and the lamp weaves / light the cat in the corner weaves woolen yarn to sleep with on the stove the coffeepot snores now and then with / pleasure the children play quietly on the floor with words the table set with white cloth is waiting for someone whose feet never will come up the stairs a train-whistle tunneling through the silence in the / distance does not find out what the secret of things is but fate counts the strokes of the pendulum by / decimals Robert Bly, translation 3. My favorite poet by far of these three is Tranströmer, though. His poetry features powerful imagery concerned with issues of fragmentation and isolation. He suffered a stroke later in his life, paralyzing half of his body; prior to his stroke, he worked as a psychologist, focusing on the juvenile prison population. News of his stroke prompted various composers around the world to create one-hand piano compositions for him: “Allegro” (1954) After a black day, I play Haydn, and feel a little warmth in my hands. The keys are ready. Kind hammers fall. The sound is spirited, green, and full of silence. The sound says that freedom exists and someone pays no tax to Caesar. I shove my hands in my haydnpockets and act like a man who is calm about it all. I raise my haydnflag. The signal is: “We do not surrender. But want peace.” The music is a house of glass standing on a slope; rocks are flying, rocks are rolling. The rocks roll straight through the house but every pane of glass is still whole. Robert Bly, translation

  2. 5 out of 5

    Edita

    So much that can neither be written nor kept inside! — Tomas Tranströmer

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    So...there are so many parts of this book to review, here I am going to focus on the poetry and then translation. Harry Martinson: nature, fishing, boating. These are GORGEOUS in Swedish. If you read them aloud they have such a musicality to them that I found myself dwelling on them and rereading parts over and over. Gunnar Ekelöf: to me these were VERY Scandinavian. Often with themes of nature, especially farming, or tranquility and then a sharp turn toward darkness or depression at the end. Tomas So...there are so many parts of this book to review, here I am going to focus on the poetry and then translation. Harry Martinson: nature, fishing, boating. These are GORGEOUS in Swedish. If you read them aloud they have such a musicality to them that I found myself dwelling on them and rereading parts over and over. Gunnar Ekelöf: to me these were VERY Scandinavian. Often with themes of nature, especially farming, or tranquility and then a sharp turn toward darkness or depression at the end. Tomas Tranströmer: Um yeah. I just didn't get these. And since my Swedish isn't fluent I spent too much time trying to figure out if I didn't get it or if I just didn't understand the analogies or similes due to lack of fluency. But after reading all of them in English I am going to say that I just don't connect with these. Translation: As a I said I am not fluent in Swedish but I am definitely convergent and I am using books to improve my grammar and vocab. I would have translated a lot of these poems differently so I cannot in good conscious recommend this book/translation to English speakers. Now I normally think that translation decisions are very complicated and translating poetry is particularly difficult, so I didn't expect things like the musicality of Martinson's poems to be captured in the translation but I felt there was a lot of nuance in the words that was missing. For instance (and there are a lot of instances) a word might be translated as human beings and really it often means something more like humankind. Overall though the experience I personally had reading this side by side translation was AMAZING. I learned some words for water birds, fishing terms, and farming words beyond bönder.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Gill

    Had to return this to the library before I had time to finish it. I read some of the poems by Harry Martinson, which were quite interesting.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    I thought Harry Martinson was the best of the three, though I'd never heard of him before. (A sailor turned writer like Joseph Conrad, he was the Nobel winner in 1974). Bly's translation seemed a little flowery compared to the starker Swedish originals, which also often rhyme, but he did a huge service to poetry by introducing Tranströmer especially to English-speaking readers. (Tranströmer was still a young psychologist at a boys' prison when this book came out and Bly definitely contributed to I thought Harry Martinson was the best of the three, though I'd never heard of him before. (A sailor turned writer like Joseph Conrad, he was the Nobel winner in 1974). Bly's translation seemed a little flowery compared to the starker Swedish originals, which also often rhyme, but he did a huge service to poetry by introducing Tranströmer especially to English-speaking readers. (Tranströmer was still a young psychologist at a boys' prison when this book came out and Bly definitely contributed to making his career.) What he wrote about Martinson, the most proletarian of the three, is just spot-on: "Harry Martinson was born in 1904. When he was fifteen he ran away from home, and went to sea, and went on working as a seaman while all of his poetic contemporaries were going to universities or arguing about Spengler and Valery. It is clear from the nakedness of his poems that for years he walked around the world in charge of his own skin, and of little more."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Krzysztof

    Probably three stars for Ekelof. The other two did nothing for me. Bly says: "In Swedish literature there is a much firmer division between 'country' and 'city' writing than there is in America or England . . . . Ekelof very clearly in the second [group]." I almost always prefer city writing. Country poets tend to reach into rotted trees, come out with a handful of damp mulch, and try to endow it with a murky spirit. If you can't set fire to it, at least apply a flint to the mind. City poetry doe Probably three stars for Ekelof. The other two did nothing for me. Bly says: "In Swedish literature there is a much firmer division between 'country' and 'city' writing than there is in America or England . . . . Ekelof very clearly in the second [group]." I almost always prefer city writing. Country poets tend to reach into rotted trees, come out with a handful of damp mulch, and try to endow it with a murky spirit. If you can't set fire to it, at least apply a flint to the mind. City poetry does that better. It's also occurred to me that Bly translates more languages than he's likely to speak. I read his "8 Stages of Translation" in college and experimented with translating some Spanish poetry (I don't speak Spanish). It's a fun exercise, but I'm not sure it makes for consistently readable poems. Bly is an egregious over-reacher.

  7. 5 out of 5

    h

    i have no way to know how accurate these translations are, but robert bly certainly does a beautiful job with all three swedish poets. there are so many stand-out poems in here, that it's not worth the time to name them. having exposure to three swedish poets in one volume (as opposed to an anthology of many or a single-poet translation) allows a better sense of the similarities and differences between poets and of each poet's personality. tight, eloquent, atmospheric language throughout. highly i have no way to know how accurate these translations are, but robert bly certainly does a beautiful job with all three swedish poets. there are so many stand-out poems in here, that it's not worth the time to name them. having exposure to three swedish poets in one volume (as opposed to an anthology of many or a single-poet translation) allows a better sense of the similarities and differences between poets and of each poet's personality. tight, eloquent, atmospheric language throughout. highly recommended to other poets.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    I read this as an adjunct to Robert Bly's anthology The Winged Energy of Delight. It wasn't necessary; just get The Winged Energy of Delight instead, all the best poems are in there. I read this as an adjunct to Robert Bly's anthology The Winged Energy of Delight. It wasn't necessary; just get The Winged Energy of Delight instead, all the best poems are in there.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

    H.M 3.75 G.E. 5.0 T.T. 3.5

  10. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

  11. 4 out of 5

    Elijah Burrell

  12. 5 out of 5

    Book Heretic

  13. 5 out of 5

    Will

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ben

  15. 5 out of 5

    Fallon

  16. 5 out of 5

    Linda Abrams

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

  18. 5 out of 5

    D. Pow

  19. 4 out of 5

    g026r

  20. 5 out of 5

    L

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Hutson

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sunduri

  23. 5 out of 5

    Stien Snellinx

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bill Duxbury

  26. 4 out of 5

    Joana

  27. 4 out of 5

    Yael

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Israel Chilton

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dave Trembley

  30. 4 out of 5

    Laurence Kirmayer

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