Thomas Transtromer won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature for poetry inspired by a small Scandinavian island in the Swedish archipelago. His work explores the idea of city vs. country. In his case the city is Stockholm while contrast is found on the remote island of Runmarö.
On the main road into the city
when the sun is low.
The traffic thickens, crawls.
It is a sluggish dragon glittering.
I am one of the dragon’s scales.
Suddenly the red sun is
right in the middle of the windscreen
I am transparent
and writing becomes visible
words in invisible ink
when the paper is held to the fire!
I know I must get far away
straight through the city and then
further until it is time to go out
and walk far in the forest.
Walk in the footprints of the badger.
It gets dark, difficult to see.
In there on the moss lie stones.
One of the stones is precious.
It can change everything
it can make the darkness shine.
It is a switch for the whole country.
Everything depends on it.
Look at it, touch it…
A Place in the Forest
On the way there a pair of startled wings clattered up — that was all. You go alone. A tall building that consists entirely of cracks, a building that is perpetually toppling but can never collapse. The thousandfold sun floats in through the cracks. In this play of light an inverted law of gravity prevails: the house is anchored in the sky and whatever falls, falls upward. There you can turn around. There you are allowed to grieve. You can dare to face certain old truths kept packed, in storage. The roles I have, deep down, float up, hang like dried skulls in the ancestral cabin on some out-of-the-way Melanesian islet. A childlike aura circles the gruesome trophies. So mild it is, in the forest.
From March 1979
Tired of all who come with words, words but no language
I went to the snow-covered island.
The wild does not have words.
The unwritten pages spread themselves out in all directions!
I come across the marks of roe-deer’s hooves in the snow.
Language but no words.
The first european known to have set foot on Rabbit Island was a Swedish immigrant known from the remaining historical records as Berg. The island was originally named Berg Saari–a combination of his surname and the Finnish word for island. Last July we found the remnants of his wood stove from the late 1880’s, several mason jars (one which was still capped and filled with liquid), tin pans and the few remaining logs that he used for the walls of his primitive cabin.
Becoming familiar with Tomas Transtromer’s work 130 years later in the context of Rabbit Island will be nice. The source of his inspiration is no doubt the same, wherever it exists.