It was what I would call a busy weekend. I wasn’t gardening, doing any essential DIY, shopping, socializing or even going to the gym. I was busy in my head. I went to the powerful and very large Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at Tate Britain and then to the Royal Festival Hall to hear Kurt Masur’s thrilling and age-refined interpretation of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra who also “accompanied” the impressive German ‘cellist Alban Gerhardt in Schumann’s melancholy Cello concerto. Back home, I listened to recordings of two more symphonies, Brahms 1 and Bruckner 5 delighting in following the music from the scores. Also, almost without noticing it, I came to the end of a book of poetry by the Swedish 2011 Nobel Prize winning poet Tomas Tranströmer. The book, New Collected Poems by Tomas Tranströmer has been my “bathroom poetry book” for sometime allowing me to read one or two of his poems everyday, sometimes struggling with his meaning, sometimes depressed by his worldview and sometimes inspired by it. Sometimes too he made me feel feebly inadequate in my own poetry but he has also, every now and then, inspired me to rethink how I work and how I need to look deeper into my own writing. Reading great poetry is a good way of trying to write better poetry oneself.
He may not though have inspired me to visit his native Sweden indelibly imprinted now in my mind with gloomy forests, damp lakeland terrrains, threatening cityscapes and terrible weather.
Here is one of his poems – a warning maybe after this weekend when Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Bruckner, Millais, Burne Jones, Holman Hunt and Tomas Tranströmer have vied with each other for space in my head.
I drag like a grapnel over the world’s floor –
everything catches that I dont need.
Tired indignation. Glowing resignation.
The executioners fetch stone. God writes in the sand.
The furniture stands in the moonlight, ready to fly.
I walk slowly into myself
through a forest of empty suits of armour.
Tomas Tranströmer, New Collected Poems translated by Robin Fulton. Bloodaxe Books.
It was wonderful that Tomas Tranströmer was awarded that Nobel Prize, a great honour no doubt but, I wonder if it is an even greater one to have had this beetle named after him by a Swedish entomologist. It was discovered recently on the swedish island of Gotland and named,
after the poet, also an enthusiastic entomologist, to mark his 80th birthday. I was glad to learn that Tomas Tranströmer is a collector of disparate things too.