Archival Features, Poems

Tomas Tranströmer: “Haikudikter”

Congratulations to Tomas Tranströmer, long-awaited and much-deserved winner of The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2011. In honor of the occasion, we’d like to make available a recent piece by the Swedish poet, originally published in the Spring/Summer 2008 issue of Poetry Northwest (the “political” issue).




The power-lines
stretch through the kingdom of frost
north of all music.


The white sun
trains alone, running toward
the blue mountain of death.


We must live
with the small script of the grass
and the laughter from cellars.


The sun is low now.
Our enormous shadows.
Soon, everything will be overtaken.


Oil tankers glide past.
The moon is full.


Medieval stronghold,
alien city, cold sphinx,
empty arenas.


The leaves whispered:
a wild boar at the organ.
And the bells rang out.


And the night pours
from east to west
at the speed of the moon.


The presence of God.
In the tunnel of birdsong
a locked gate opens.


Oak trees and the moon.
Light and silent constellations.
The cold sea.

translated from the Swedish by Michael McGriff with Mikaela Grassl

Tomas Tranströmer is the winner of The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2011. His work has been translated into more than fifty languages. Among his most recent books of poetry in English are The Sorrow Gondola (Green Integer, 2010) and New Collected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2011).