from Antioch Review, Spring 2012
Starting from the everyday experience of being in a car heading into the city on a clogged highway, the winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature, Tomas Tranströmer, wrote:
I know that I have to go far away,
straight through the city, out
the other side, then step out
and walk a long time in the woods.
Walk in the tracks of the badger.
("Further In," from Stigar ,
tr. Robert Bly)
More than an invitation to wildness, or a marker of the contrast between the civilized and the natural worlds, this, the first badger to appear in Tranströmer's poetry, was a manifest nod to Robert Bly and his role as guide.
That omnivorous, tenacious, apparently fearless mammal, sometimes solitary, digging in the dark earth, has been a fixture in Bly's thought and poetry. In 1956, he wrote in his journal, "Remember: All forms of flying seem vague to the badger." (Neruda, whose poetry was a key revelation for Bly during that same year in Norway, was known to have kept a pet badger.) Later, when his magazine The Sixties was going strong, he used this simile in a letter to Donald Hall: "I have been working like a badger at night on Sixties things. . . . " The wild animal started appearing in his poems, first in The Light Around the Body, and then in Sleepers Joining Hands, including this example, from "Water Under the Earth":
I am only half-risen,
I see how carefully I have covered my tracks as I wrote,
how well I brushed over the past with my tail.
I enter rooms full of photographs of the dead.
My hair stands up
as a badger crosses my path in the moonlight.
It also turned up in his letters to Tranströmer, once when he criticized another Swedish poet's book as "too intellectual," with "too much defense of poetry in it." He continued, "[W]hoever heard of defending a mountain against detractors and saying 'A Mountain Is No Façade' or 'A Badger is No Façade' . . . the female badger knows that . . . [Bly's ellipses]." In late 1972, a letter from Tranströmer began, "Dear Badger." It went on to thank Bly for his hospitality during a recent visit to Madison, Minnesota. No doubt he had seen the badger poems from Bly's forthcoming Sleepers, and the badger had figured prominently in their animated conversations.
Tranströmer suffered a stroke in 1990 that rendered him virtually speechless. Just prior, the last letter he wrote to Bly began, "Dear master and buddy, why do I always have to write to other people than you?" That final salutation epitomizes his long relationship with Bly (which continues, but not in the same epistolary manner). They were "buddies," sharing the treasured and sympathetic friendship of kindred spirits, yet Tranströmer always saw Bly as his "master," or "maestro," forms of address he often used. The correspondence had begun in 1964, at Tranströmer's initiative. Soon he openly expressed how he was benefitting: "Your poems were truly a great and life-giving injection directly across The Great Water," he wrote in 1967. ''I'm getting shouts of encouragement from many directions. Yours are worth the most, though." In the mid-seventies, responding with some hesitation to a last-minute question about one line, Tranströmer said, "If you decide to keep your version I will not blame you but remain always your true friend, supporter, parasite."
At the same time, they had a two-man mutual admiration society. Bly used "master" for Tranströmer once, asking him to check a translation he had done. When Tranströmer told Bly of his plans to translate (together with Lars Gustafsson, Goran Sonnevi, and Lasse Soderberg) poems from his first two books (which became Krig och tystnad, i.e., War and Silence), Bly replied: "I hereby give you my Swedish power-of-literary-attorney, I appoint you my Swedish agent, translator, and father-in-law (as you are already my brother), and you decide about the translations—whatever you decide will be fine—will be law! —with me." In letters during the process of translating Mörkerseende (Night Vision), Bly signed off as "Boswell" and "Your Boswell faithfulus," feeling himself the companion and enabler of Tranströmer's superior Dr. Johnson. The Swede's point of view, however, was fixed. He quite explicitly sought Bly's "fatherly" or "big-brotherly" advice on several occasions. Bly, too, asked for advice—once saying, "I have some questions for you, Dad"—but mostly he remained the big brother.
This asymmetry is due to at least a couple of factors. One is the obvious difference in the size of Sweden and the United States and their poetry-reading audiences, and in their relative clout on the literary scene of the Northern Hemisphere. Swedish poets, not surprisingly, were much more likely to look to their American counterparts for guidance than the other way around. Second is the fact that Bly, although just four years older, and although he had published just one book of poems compared to Tranströmer's three when their correspondence began, was already an outsize figure—as editor, critic, teacher, translator, and poet—whose reputation and impact were growing more rapidly. The link between the second factor and the first is plain.
As Bly had experienced at Harvard, and as in the academy at large, under the hegemony of New Criticism, formal English-language poetry predominated. From the platform of his own pugnacious and frisky little magazine, The Fifties (later The Sixties and The Seventies), with its eponymous small press, Bly touted a "new imagination" for a new poetry. One of the first steps for American poets, he said, was to learn from non-English-speaking poets via translation. Both the surrealist content of many of those poems, linking the inner and outer worlds, and the labor-intensive translation process itself were essential components of that education. Of course, poetry was already being translated (Poetry stood out here, as did New Directions Publishing), but relatively infrequently, and more often than not it was lackluster. Bly's new emphasis blasted wide open those too-narrow gates and enabled more traffic in and accessibility to translation. Practically an entire generation was schooled in poets from abroad, as Trakl, Lorca, Rilke, Neruda, Machado, Kabir, and many others became essential reading.
What set Bly apart from other translators was not only his unique gift and his verve, but also his persistent efforts as champion of the translated poets. In Tranströmer's case, this included practical assistance, such as alerting him to the need to insist on "non-exclusive" translation rights when signing a contract. There was steady boosterism, in private and in public. When Klanger och spar came out in 1966, Bly wrote to Tranströmer that he had said to himself: "'Well, look at all the things I haven't done yet! '" Finding the poems startling and moving, he added, "Oh you're a bloody genius!" About Eric Selllin's translations from that same year (the first published in English), Bly wrote, "Everyone says your poems are the best thing in the New Directions annual. And they are!" He would often tell Tranströmer of the enthusiastic reception of the translations by audiences at readings, or even by his wife. It is difficult to overestimate the value of such encouragement.
When Tranströmer received his copy of Twenty Poems of Tomas Tranströmer, Bly's translations published by the Seventies Press in 1970, he expressed his gratitude. "But too much praise on the cover!" he added. "My wife thought it to be accurate but personally I think I am not number 7 or 11 on the ranking list of 20th century Swedish poets. Most literary officials in Sweden would think I am number 24 or 29. Your own reputation is in danger!" Bly's rejoinder was underlined emphatically: "Every word I say on the jacket of 20 Poems is the exact and literal truth—Monica knows that."
Bly wrote there that he saw Tranströmer in line with but distinct from Ekelöf's "highest sort of mind-poetry" and Harry Martinson's "beautiful and deep sense poetry," creating "a third thing." Tranströmer, he said, "always arranges things so that the spiritual consciousness slips through the gate the moment it is opened, and so gets in the poem first. The spiritual consciousness brings with it the spiritual unconscious, so we find image after image of what is under the earth, under oceans, near roots, near lake bottoms, in the holds of ships. It is his incredible sensitivity to the hands lying under the earth and under water, holding messages for us, that most of the time they can never deliver, that gives his poems their sense of depth and their freshness. He was born with that sensitivity. Then he has trained himself to write cleanly, swiftly, briefly, with no rhetoric. Not yet forty, he is one of the best poets of his generation in Europe."
In the book's introduction, Bly added: "His poems are a sort of railway station where trains that have come enormous distances stand briefly in the same building. One train may have some Russian snow still lying on the undercarriage, & another may have Mediterranean flowers still fresh in the compartments, and Ruhr soot on the roofs." To this last remark, Tranströmer reacted: "Nothing written about my poems has made me so glad as your railway station metaphor—it is so beautiful in itself, a poem, and I can only hope that it is true too." Thanks to this, Tranströmer's first book in English, but also to individual poems that Bly placed in many little magazines, soon there were fans across the U.S. "I must get some poems of yours ready, to satisfy the Tranströmer freaks," Bly wrote in 1971.
The approbation kept coming. A few years later, Bly informed him, "Well everyone around the U.S. read yesterday that you were a genius .... " Helen Vendler had reviewed Bly's Friends, You Drank Some Darkness: Three Swedish Poets: Martinson, Ekelöf, and Tranströmer in the New York Times Book Review. Regarding the last-named poet, she said, "Each of his poems deserves quotation, meditation, and praise. . . . Poems of this almost prehistoric northern sort, with their severe music and their archaic austerity of language, make our American poetry seem too often garrulous, vulgar, naive, self-indulgent, and self-absorbed, written in a hurry, eager for instant effect." Vendler continued: "It is perhaps ungrateful to our American poets to suggest that publishing houses give us more foreign poetry in bilingual editions, but we remain, all of us, provincial in respect to the poetry of the world. The real shortage, unfortunately, is of translators of the stature of Bly, who can sense what is translatable and find, by an instinct mysterious in its workings, the elusive words for the ungraspable essence of the foreign poet." Here is an acknowledgment of Bly's knack and labor and, indirectly, of the almost symbiotic existence of the poet and his translator (in the best of circumstances). Bly's generosity was not entirely disinterested. He and Tranströmer became, in some real way, inextricably intertwined, as did their reputations, which is only as it should be.
Not infrequently, these two noticed that their poems, when translated, seemed to take on new life, new strength. About Tranströmer's version of "Snowfall in the Afternoon," Bly said, "I am very surprised at how natural the lines sound in Swedish, at least in your Swedish." Another time, Bly commented on the translation of a poem he was still revising in his own language: "Again, I've changed the last stanza, but the Swedish sounds excellent, and I think you've solved some things in the Swedish I was dissatisfied with in English, so let's leave yours exactly as it is."
This was, apparently, a more common experience for Tranströmer. In 1967 he said, "'From an African Diary' sounds so good in your English version that I wonder if it wasn't conceived in English from the outset and the Swedish text isn't a kind of translation." This feeling grew, and because he trusted Bly as a poet, he usually liked the liberties that Bly took. The result was often so distinctive that Tranströmer called the end product "Blyish" rather than English. (He is not the only one to have characterized Bly's translations thus.) In 1971, sensing that he had a better reputation abroad than in Sweden, he said, "I am inclined to suspect your translations are better than the original poems. That does not disturb me. What matters is that the texts give people something, if you or I am responsible for their experience is irrelevant." As more English-language translators (including May Swenson, Robin Fulton, and Samuel Charters) were starting to work on him, Tranströmer wrote to Bly, "The good thing with your translations is that I always meet again the original emotion I felt just when the poem started. Other translators give a pale reproduction of the finished poem but you bring me back to the original experience."
This is not to suggest that the process always went smoothly for them. It was toilsome, time-consuming, and occasionally frustrating. Working side by side in Sweden or in Minnesota, as happened on numerous occasions, when each was able to hear the lines, to have a clearer sense of the associations, to experience the landscape, and to respond instantaneously, resulted, they felt, in the best translations. But, not surprisingly, the letters reveal much more about the process of long-distance translation. After being gently stung by Tranströmer's mocking corrections of various "howlers," Bly wrote in 1979 that he had finished the poems of Sanningsbarrären (Truth Barriers): "I'll send a copy to you in the next mail, so that you can embarrass me again. I probably translated 'dog' as 'mouse-seed' and 'Paradise' as a low-level radiation measuring device."
Their sympathy is especially evident in the poem "Romanska bågar" ("Romanesque Arches"):
Tourists have crowded into the half-dark of the enormous
Vault opening behind vault and no perspective.
A few candle flames flickered.
An angel whose face I couldn't see embraced me
and his whisper went all through my body:
"Don't be ashamed to be a human being, be proud!
Inside you one vault after another opens endlessly.
You'll never be complete, and that's as it should be."
Tears blinded me
as we were herded out into the fiercely sunlit piazza,
together with Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Herr Tanaka and Signora Sabatini;
within each of them vault after vault opened endlessly.
In 1989, Tranströmer responded to Bly's version, "You are probably the only one among my—now rather numerous—translators who has the right feeling for this poem that embarrasses certain readers and makes others happy. You understand that this poem is not sentimental, but emotional, and of course documentary." He added, in parentheses: "You can easily see your Swedish friend, blinded from tears, tottering out from San Marco in Venice, supported by his faithful bodyguard Monica, after suddenly realizing that the human soul is built in ROMANESQUE style." Finally, before voicing a few minor objections, he wrote: "Your translation carries the emotion wonderfully. . . . "
Bly organized a brief reading tour in 1971 in support of Twenty Poems and Night Vision. He sent Tranströmer the schedule. "In a couple of them, I hope I can be with you—you read the poems in Swedish, and I'll read them in English—or the other way around! Swedish with a heavy Sioux accent." Tranströmer replied, "If there is a genuine interest from some audiences to hear us read ourselves in broken languages I will welcome it as a wonderful opportunity to rejoin the Bly family and to hear your new stories, especially in rural surroundings." The October dates included solo performances at Cornell University and at the Academy of American Poets in New York City, joint appearances at Oberlin College and in Minnesota at St. John's University and Gustavus Adolphus College (with a break in Madison for the baptism of one of the Bly children, Tranströmer serving as godfather), and then on to Boulder, Pocatello, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Just before setting out, Tranströmer, assessing their relationship as he did, wrote, "It is strange having you as an efficient impresario—it is as if Dylan Thomas was arranging a reading trip for John Malcolm Brinnin." (It was Brinnin who first brought Thomas to the U.S.)
At the root of this extraordinary bond—a model of its kind, really—was Tranströmer's enthusiasm for Bly's magazine and press and for his poetry (not to overlook his awareness of Bly's affinity for Scandinavian poetry, which had been obvious from the opening pages of The Fifties #1 in 1958). "About History," one of the first unpublished poems Tranströmer sent, was, he said, "probably to some extent influenced by my work with 'the poetry of The Sixties.' An attempt to write SPEECH LINES, non-rhetorical ones, and not to flinch away from the political, the historical." The timing of the magazine's appearance was notoriously unpredictable, and Tranströmer would describe himself as "longing" for the new issue, once "like a madman," another time "the way a prisoner of war longs for a package from the Red Cross." When Bly indicated he intended to print some Tranströmer translations, the Swede, surely mindful of Odin's permanent station on the front cover, replied, "To be published in The Sixties now seems to me to be a significantly greater honor, fully comparable to arriving at Valhalla and drinking beer with the great heroes."
The first and only issue of The Seventies (which was phenomenal by any measure, and which later became Leaping Poetry) appeared in 1972. In it Bly used Tranströmer's "Track" as an example of what he called "poetry of steady light." This stood in contrast to most of the other poems there exemplifying "leaping." But he also printed "Out in the Open," as evidence that Tranströmer was a leaper, too, making connections between the reptile brain, the mammal brain, and the new brain (alluding to his accompanying essay, "The Three Brains"). When Tranströmer sent this poem in 1966, he said, "There's a section . . . that touches my transatlantic relations in a very personal way." Here is the second section of that poem (in Bly's most recent revision):
A letter from America drove me out again, started me walking
through the luminous June night in the empty suburban streets
among the newborn districts without memories, cool as blueprints.
Letter in my pocket. Half-mad, lost walking, it is a kind of prayer.
Over there evil and good actually have faces.
For the most part with us it's a fight between roots, numbers, shades
The people who run death's errands for him don't shy from daylight.
They rule from glass offices. They mill about in the bright sun.
They lean forward over a desk, and throw a look to the side.
Far off I found myself standing in front of one of the new buildings.
Many windows flowed together there into a single window.
In it the luminous night sky was caught, and the walking trees.
It was a mirrorlike lake with no waves, turned on edge in the summer
Violence seemed unreal
for a few moments.
The "letter from America" was from his Minnesota friend, whose activities that spring included co-founding Poets and Writers Against the Vietnam War, organizing and participating in numerous anti-war read-ins at college campuses, and putting together the anthology A Poetry Reading Against the Vietnam War. Tranströmer found Bly's informative and mostly upbeat reports to be reassuring in what was otherwise a rather dreadful time, even in Sweden. Later, he called his poem "a sort of intercession for the US among other things, and may all prayer mills grind day and night for/to the good and hidden powers."
The third and final section is as follows:
Sun burning. The plane comes in low
throwing a shadow shaped like a giant cross that rushes over the
A man is sitting in the field poking at something.
The shadow arrives.
For a fraction of a second he is right in the center of the cross.
I have seen the cross hanging in the cool church vaults.
At times it resembles a split-second snapshot of something
moving at tremendous speed.
Bly said the image of the cross was wonderful and ominous, "though I am not convinced yet if or how the third stanza fits into the poem." The author sought to clarify: "that last part of the poem is in no way invented, it is SEEN, it is The Lion's Tail and Eyes. If the airplane cross in the first lines is something dangerous, threatening, negative, I understand the cross in the concluding lines as something positive, helpful, but at the same time intensely fleeing-returning, something nearer to us than everything else and also something we can only glimpse for an instant, not hang onto. Commenting on the whole thing gets rather rhetorical and powerless, it needs to be seen, and you can probably see better than anyone else." In the introduction to that second Sixties Press book (from 1962) that Tranströmer names, Bly explained the title. A friend had read the poems and "said that they seemed very strange to her, as if an artist had drawn a lion, but had only drawn in the eyes and the tail. We have to understand that the rest of the lion is there." Tranströmer was quite conscious that what he was trying to do with that image was in sync with Bly's own prescription, was representative of the "new imagination."
The example Bly set as a poet, beginning with Silence in the Snowy Fields and The Light Around the Body, was also crucial. Tranströmer wrote that the poems from these books were having a powerful effect in their Swedish versions. "The therapeutic influence comes mainly from the honest and sensible effort to bring the inner and the outer worlds together—people are hungry for crossways now." A couple of years later, Tranströmer complimented Bly on some prose poems he had seen in kayak, and added: "I should like to translate them but I can't just now, because I am lately too interested in prose poems myself—I don't want to get influenced." He didn't wait too long; a number of them were published in Prosadikter in 1977. Tranströmer mentioned that another young Swedish poet, Göran Sonnevi, who also was translating and being translated by Bly, had written that Bly's "impact upon younger poets has been great and maybe a bit dangerous."
More than once Tranströmer acknowledged his deviation from what might be termed Sixties-school dogma. "I'm enclosing a poem, which jumped into me during a car trip in Dalarna, right before Midsummer. Of course, from a Sixties point of view it's a scandal, since it is mostly iambic." Tranströmer was well aware that Bly's bark was worse than his bite, at least when it came to his friends. One did not have to toe every line—such as vowing to eschew classical references—in order to enjoy or benefit from the magazine or to be a valued and respected colleague. (A recent suggestion by Dan Chiasson in The New Yorker that Bly "enlisted" Tranströmer in the so-called "deep image" poetry, but that he then somehow got away from his "gooey" clutches, is preposterous and patently false.) Similarly, Bly's many enthusiasms—brain theory, astrology, UFOs, fairy tales, Jung, etc. —served as provocative if sometimes quirky food for thought, not as prerequisites for a place at Bly's table. Besides some playful badgering, this was simply the stuff between thoughtful friends, like their discussions of poems and poetics, book recommendations, suggestions of other poets to read, and even personal introductions. That Tranströmer sensed a kind of "telepathy" between the two of them early on is very significant. Time and time again over the years they would discover that they had been thinking similar thoughts or moving in a similar new direction in an entirely unpremeditated way.
The two poets often shared details of their reception by critics. After the prevalent (though not absolute) air of rustic interiority in his first book, Bly faced charges of being too political with The Light Around the Body. He wrote, "You asked about reviews of The Light—it's being attacked from all sides so far! The mingling of 'inward life' and political or social poetry has really infuriated the reviewers so far. They insist one of the two sides or areas must be false, 'affected'—possibly both!" Tranströmer replied, "Here it's the other way round. . . . When you appear before students these days you're always accused of 'taking up a reactionary attitude' if you read a poem with some animals or blades of grass in it. And if you write a poem that touches on politics, that's wrong too, because you haven't used the correct political clichés. I hate this damned war with all my heart but I haven't therefore begun to declare myself a fighting Marxist or begged forgiveness for writing about blades of grass and animals." He was eager for his first book in English: "The cultural life of Sweden is and remains a scene for fools. Help me out of this! Release at least 20 of my poor poems from the cage of the Swedish language!" A couple of years later, Tranströmer was still feeling beleaguered by what he called "this Inferno of Stupidity that is Swedish Cultural Life."
Bly was no stranger to the work of Nobel Prize winners. He translated two novels—The Story of Gösta Berling, by Selma Lagerlöf, and Knut Hamsun's Hunger—composed new "versions" of Rabindrinath Tagore's translations of the fifteenth-century mystic Kabir (The Kabir Book), and translated and published Forty Poems of Juan Ramón Jiménez. But these translations all postdate the awards to and deaths of the authors.
More importantly, Bly's literary acumen and foresight are apparent in his choice to translate, among others, five poets who would eventually receive the Nobel Prize. First was Neruda, in The Sixties #6(1962) and five years later in Twenty Poems of Pablo Neruda (translated with James Wright) from the Sixties Press. He won the prize in 1971. Friends, You Drank Some Darkness: Three Swedish Poets, Martinson, Ekelöj, and Tranströmer, was in press at the time of the announcement in 1974 that Harry Martinson (together with another Swede, Eyvind Johnson) had won. The Italian poet Eugenio Montale, with four poems in The Sixties #6, won in 1975, at which time Bly wrote a tribute for the New York Times Book Review. The fourth winner was Vicente Aleixandre, an older Spanish poet without a book published in the U.S. In the late 1960s, Bly urged Lewis Hyde to set to work on him. Their shared effort, Twenty Poems of Vicente Aleixandre, was published in 1977 by the Seventies Press. That October, after the announcement of Aleixandre's Nobel Prize, Bly wrote another essay for the New York Times Book Review. Noteworthy, too, is the fact that Bly had taken care to meet face to face with three of these poets: Neruda, Martinson, and Aleixandre. Bly's support of and alliance with the fifth eventual Nobelist, obviously, was more protracted, and their connection and collaboration more profound.
Over such a long period, it seems inevitable that two successful and ambitious poets, especially when one of them is Swedish, would make at least an occasional remark about the Nobel Prize. (This is not to suggest that such remarks were predictive, only coincidental.) First, and from another source altogether, in 1973, in the aftermath of The Seventies #1, Hall wrote to Bly, "I repeat what I said a couple of years ago, that I think that you will receive the Nobel Prize. With any luck, they'll wait until you are 82 before they give it to you, so it won't do any harm." When Tranströmer's Östersjöar came out in 1974, the tide of local opinion about him was turning somewhat. "One fellow in BLM [Bonniers Litterära Magasin] thinks I am all worthless. Another—in Gefle Dagblad [a newspaper]—shouts 'GIVE HIM THE NOBEL PRIZE. . . . '" A year later, he wrote Bly while watching the award ceremony on television. He described several individuals, including the King of Sweden, Alfred Nobel himself, and Eugenio Montale, the recipient, whom he labels "the victim." Then he said, "Time for the econom[ics.] prize—you will never get that prize Robert but you might get the literary one when you are 80!" In 1980, he sent an article for Bly's amusement, "a 'debate' about the reasons for my American reputation. The guilty one is you, as always." To the article he added the note: "Means that you don't have to worry about the Nobel Prize and I don't have to worry about membership in the Swedish Academy .... "
In 1973, Tranströmer shared with Bly his sense of a profound calling: "I sometimes have the feeling that I have a duty to do for some hidden Consciousness. Why do I have to live through this constant confusion, to see and hear all these things, what does it mean? I sometimes get a little comfort from the feeling that Someone, or rather Something, wants me to do it. 'Stay where you are my dear Tomas, don't run away, you have a function even if you don't know what it is.'" Gradually, as he has become internationally known through being widely translated, so too his Swedish audience, the Swedish Academy, and finally the Nobel Committee have given due recognition to the dutiful and modest genius in their midst.
The correspondence of Tranströmer and Bly (collected in Air Mail, published in Sweden in 2001) contains much jovial banter, the sharing of dreams, personal struggles, family news, literary gossip, and their defeats and triumphs, serious political and professional discussion, as well as documentation of their reciprocal translating trials. The four main books of Bly's translations, Twenty Poems of Tomas Tranströmer, Night Vision, Truth Barriers, and The Half-Finished Heaven, stand as signposts pointing to Tranströmer's significant role in his life. But, as the letters illuminate, they are also testimony to his more consequential role in Tranströmer's.
In that final letter from 1990 (once again), Tranströmer talked of feeling as though he was winning too many prizes. He went on: "I must tell you a strange episode. In the beginning of February I visited Oslo, for one day and one night. In the morning I hurried to the Oslo railway station—and there—I saw—YOU." And yet it wasn't Bly. "Perhaps it was your apparition?" Then he had another idea: "Perhaps you have a shamanistic method to fly to the Oslo railway station now and then and relax for a couple of minutes while you are sleeping in Minnesota, or lecturing mankind somewhere. . . . " Perhaps he was simply seeing what and whom he wanted to see. Their kinship—as poets, translators, brothers, and friends—was fierce, enduring, and mysterious. Tranströmer remained ever alert to the tracks of his master the badger, even if they were only in his imagination.
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About the Author
Mark Gustafson lives in Minneapolis. His essays have appeared in Classical Antiquity, Great River Review, Harvard Theological Review, and Rain Taxi Review of Books, as well as Written on the Body and Robert Bly in This World. Red Dragonfly Press has just published The Odin House Harvest, his bibliography of Bly's little magazine and small press. A companion piece, a narrative history entitled The New Imagination, is forthcoming. Bly's biography will follow, eventually.
Yellow Springs, Ohio
Editor: Robert S. Fogarty
Editor at Large: David St. John
Assistant Editor: Muriel Keyes
Poetry Editor: Judith Hall