Tuesday, March 06, 2012

A Winter Night

Here's Robin Fulton's translation of Tomas Tranströmer's "A Winter Night" (which I have in New Collected Poems, Bloodaxe, 1997):

The storm puts its mouth to the house
and blows to produce a note.
I sleep uneasily, turn, with shut eyes
read the storm’s text.

But the child’s eyes are large in the dark
and for the child the storm howls.
Both are fond of lamps that swing.
Both are halfway toward speech.

The storm has childish hands and wings.
The Caravan bolts towards Lapland.
And the house feels its own constellation of nails
holding the walls together.

The night is calm over our floor
(where all expired footsteps
rest like sunk leaves in a pond)
but outside the night is wild.

Over the world goes a graver storm.
It sets its mouth to our soul
and blows to produce a note. We dread
that the storm will blow us empty.

I came across this poem today (thanks to my friend Allen) and was struck by how it takes up issues of inside and outside that I addressed recently in my post on Adrienne Rich's discussion of Wallace Stevens's "The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm." Tranströmer approaches the issue from a completely different angle, of course: "the night is calm" but the world is not.

Any time I think about Tranströmer I also love to recall this.

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