Doggerel Days of Summer: Boston Flights and Swedish Nights

 

Upheavals in life often leave us running, at once, for the new and the old. Unconfirmed reports say that I may have cut seven inches of my hair off, four days before flying home for the first time in almost eight months. I also may have downloaded two Longmire novels to my phone, and the second book of Winston Churchill’s The Second World War series to my Audible app. Tomas Tranströmer has played much the same role in my life, a touchstone for times good and bad, new and old. Laying in bed listening to a recitation of one of his poems a few nights ago was what inspired me to write this post initially.

While winning a Nobel Prize would be a breathtaking gift to most poets, for Tranströmer this attracted no small amount of criticism. As he was Swedish, some critics said, his mediocre poetry was being honored by a sense of national pride rather than for its merits. To me, this is complete stupidity. The Swedish former psychologist deserves far more attention than he gets in the English speaking world, for the beauty of his wordcraft and the profundity of his message. 

Take the poem below, one of my favorites, if not my absolute favorite. I’ll pick just one flourish to try to convince you of Tranströmer’s brilliance; the repeated allusion/motif of Haydn. Skilled poets, perhaps most famously T.S. Eliot, use a variety of allusions as bullets of concentrated meaning, a device which can convey a rainbow of history, feeling, and philosophy where otherwise so many words would be needed. In “Allegro” the Classical composer Joseph Haydn alone is used to the same effect. In the first instance as an example of beauty and the mooring that enduring products of civilization can provide in life. In the second, Haydn, his music and his thought, are a place of retreat, “Haydnpockets” where, if the poet is narrator, the man of faith goes to escape an increasingly secular society. And on like this. Combined with a spare style that perfectly evokes the harshness, minimalism, and beauty of Swedish natural life (and such outstanding characteristics of other places that he poetically paints, like Shanghai), this skill in manipulating literary devices shows a true brilliance. Combined with the contents of the poetry, reaching to understand every aspect of life and the beyond, makes it sublime. 

Allegro

I play Haydn after a black day

and feel a simple warmth in my hands.

The keys are willing. Soft hammers strike.

The resonance is green, lively and calm.

The music says freedom exists

and someone doesn’t pay the emperor tax.

I push down my hands in my Haydnpockets

and imitate a person looking on the world calmly.

I hoist the Haydnflag – it signifies:

“We don’t give in. But want peace.”

The music is a glass-house on the slope

where the stones fly, the stones roll.

And the stones roll right through

but each pane stays whole.

Published in Group Writing
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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Safe journey, kid.

    • #1
  2. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Safe journey, kid.

    Thanks! At Heathrow right now, hopefully I’ll be able to get through UK and American immigration and security. 

    • #2
  3. John H. Member
    John H.
    @JohnH

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Safe journey, kid.

    Thanks! At Heathrow right now, hopefully I’ll be able to get through UK and American immigration and security.

    Just act nonchalant. That always works. For me anyway!

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    John H. (View Comment):

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Safe journey, kid.

    Thanks! At Heathrow right now, hopefully I’ll be able to get through UK and American immigration and security.

    Just act nonchalant. That always works. For me anyway!

    But it’s far easier to act chalant. I mean, being nonchalant is great if you are, but acting it? It’s very, very hard. Like not thinking about pink elephants.

    • #4
  5. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    John H. (View Comment):

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Safe journey, kid.

    Thanks! At Heathrow right now, hopefully I’ll be able to get through UK and American immigration and security.

    Just act nonchalant. That always works. For me anyway!

    Well, I’m past British security now, so everything seems okay. Just have to buy chocolates at Fortnum and Mason and a bottle of gin and of whisky and I’ll be ready to fly. 

    • #5
  6. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    Waiting to board. Got stuck on the Heathrow Express between A and B gates, because the train doors wouldn’t open. A few guys were (very valiantly) trying to pry them open or play with the switch, I suggested we use the switch and pull the door at the same time and we managed to escape. The amazing female power of reading instructions. 

    • #6
  7. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer


    See everyone on the other side :)

    • #7
  8. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer


    Through security and home safe with my family :)

    • #8
  9. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):


    Through security and home safe with my family :)

    Can’t read the whole thing, there, but shouldn’t there be an “Oh, my!” after Rothbard & Mises and Hayek?

    • #9
  10. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    Arahant (View Comment):

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):


    Through security and home safe with my family :)

    Can’t read the whole thing, there, but shouldn’t there be an “Oh, my!” after Rothbard & Mises and Hayek?

    • #10
  11. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    If you don’t hear from after tonight, it’s because I was murdered by my cat. She has specific expectations about when I should be home, and I failed. 

    • #11
  12. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):
    If you don’t hear from after tonight, it’s because I was murdered by my cat. She has specific expectations about when I should be home, and I failed. 

    I’m sure she’ll be quite cuddly with every claw she’s got.

    • #12
  13. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    So, KW, we should presume you’ve a bloody collection of claw marks?  Your cat really does look fierce.

    • #13
  14. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    So, KW, we should presume you’ve a bloody collection of claw marks? Your cat really does look fierce.

    I was ignored for all of last night and most of today, but while I was laying on my bed reading after unpacking and cleaning around the house, something started to gently headbut me. Apparently I have been reaccepted into the clan and excused for the excessive absence, although I now have a shadow following me around everywhere expecting attention for penance (not too bad in my book). I have one claw mark, but that’s my fault for picking her up when she wasn’t expecting it. Inevitably she’ll be sitting on my suitcase to filibuster when I have to return to the UK in mid-September. She’s really a very sweet cat, and loves people, although the birds, mice, butterflies, and raccoons near our house might feel differently about that judgement. 

    • #14
  15. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    So, KW, we should presume you’ve a bloody collection of claw marks? Your cat really does look fierce.

    I was ignored for all of last night and most of today, but while I was laying on my bed reading after unpacking and cleaning around the house, something started to gently headbut me. Apparently I have been reaccepted into the clan and excused for the excessive absence, although I now have a shadow following me around everywhere expecting attention for penance (not too bad in my book). I have one claw mark, but that’s my fault for picking her up when she wasn’t expecting it. Inevitably she’ll be sitting on my suitcase to filibuster when I have to return to the UK in mid-September. She’s really a very sweet cat, and loves people, although the birds, mice, butterflies, and raccoons near our house might feel differently about that judgement.

     (She was also the cutest damn kitten in the entire world). 

    • #15
  16. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    • #16
  17. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

     (She was also the cutest damn kitten in the entire world). 

    I will concede that kittens are cute.  Then they grow up.  (Not a cat person.)

    • #17
  18. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    (She was also the cutest damn kitten in the entire world).

    I will concede that kittens are cute. Then they grow up. (Not a cat person.)

    Siamese are basically just dogs in cat bodies. She fetches, comes when we call, walks on a leash, and loves to play with people. 

    • #18
  19. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):
    Siamese are basically just dogs in cat bodies. She fetches, comes when we call, walks on a leash, and loves to play with people. 

    And will still lay on anything you try to see or work on.

    • #19
  20. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    And as my ebony is reminding me, will never shut up. Dogs bark, Siamese and Oriental Body-Type cats talk a lot.

    • #20
  21. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    Arahant (View Comment):

    And as my ebony is reminding me, will never shut up. Dogs bark, Siamese and Oriental Body-Type cats talk a lot.

    Ours actually don’t fit the stereotype, they are silent 99% of the time (which I’m happy about, honestly). The unending desire to hang out on books I’m trying to read or running across the computer drives me crazy, but I think my parents were secretly grateful for it during high school, because the cat was the only thing that could distract me from school work at 11:45 pm, and get me to play with her (and maybe go to bed) instead of forging ahead.

    • #21