For the Living and the Dead
New Poems and A MemoirBook - 1995
With this new volume of poetry, Tomas Transtromer once again demonstrates his gift for capturing and grounding the elusive, luminous details of our modern world. As its title suggests, For the Living and the Dead works to bridge the space between those real and unreal elements of life, suggesting that a surprising, redemptive cohesion can exist within a universe of opposing forces.
Transtromer has referred to his poems as "meeting places," with "their intent to make a sudden connection between aspects of reality that conventional languages and outlooks ordinarily keep apart. Large and small details of the landscape meet, divided cultures and people flow together in a work of art. . ." People and objects alike are given a certain weightiness, their presence filled with a potential carefully measured by the poet's eye and quietly attested to by his language. In "Vermeer," "The airy sky has taken its place leaning against the wall. /It is like a prayer to what is empty./ And what is empty turns its face to us/ and whispers/ 'I am not empty, I am open.'"
This volume combines Transtromer's recent poetry with a prose memoir of his childhood in Sweden, written in the same careful, unsentimental voice for which he is so beloved. Through this memoir the author reveals himself as a curious, sensitive child, interested in archeology and insects, terrified of school and his authoritarian teachers.
Characterized by the insight and integrity we have come to expect from his work, For the Living and the Dead confirms Tomas Transtromer as one of the most significant living poets writing in any language.