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Tomas Tranströmer: Robin Fulton and Robin Robertson

Having just read the versions of Tomas Tranströmer’s poems in Robert Robertson’s The Deleted World I can understand why people love and admire them so much and perhaps in time I’ll come to do so myself.  Their language is supple and fluent, rich and delicate in sound and full of expressiveness, and behind it all there is the immense power and humanity of Tranströmer’s own vision. At least for now, though, they just don’t feel right to me.

Perhaps familiarity with Robin Fulton’s versions means that I’m not approaching Robertson’s with an open enough mind. And of course I have no … Continue Reading

Quietness and Penetrative Power – Michael Longley’s A Hundred Doors

A Hundred Doors by Michael Longley. Jonathan Cape. 64 pp; £10.00

Michael Longley’s poetic voice must be one of the most instantly recognizable in English poetry. And yet the tone of his writing, especially in this new volume, is extraordinarily modest. Sometimes, as in “Call”, he barely seems to impose his own will on poems which appear almost to assemble themselves as he notices things around him, people or animals cross his path and thoughts surface. The frequent use of questions is a part of this tentativeness. They are rhetorical in that they aren’t part of an ongoing process of enquiry, … Continue Reading

Rilke, “The First Elegy”; Tranströmer, “Romanesque Arches”

Perhaps this is a commonplace but the first Duino Elegy reminds me irresistibly of Tomas Tranströmer’s “Romanesque Arches”.

You can find Robin Fulton’s translation of “Romanesque Arches” at http://www.ellenlindquist.com/ellen/?p=520 . Countless sites give the first Duino elegy as a whole, among them http://homestar.org/bryannan/duino.html (using Stephen Mitchell’s translation).

The most obvious link is the embrace by the angel. Behind that there‘s the contrast between the human and angelic orders of being, and the sense of the human condition as inherently one of incompleteness.

But the two poems work in vastly different ways. Rilke’s eloquence is splendid and overwhelming. Line after line chants … Continue Reading