Tomas Transtromer’s “A Winter Night”

This past October, Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer was awarded the Nobel prize for literature. It turns out Tranströmer’s work was first translated into English back in the 1960s by Minnesota poet Robert Bly.

In honor of the prize, Graywolf Press has reissued Half-Finished Heaven, a book of Tranströmer’s poems, selected and translated by Bly. Here’s one of them:

A Winter Night

The storm puts its lips to the house

and blows to make a sound.

I sleep restlessly, turn over, with closed

eyes read the book of the storm.

But the child’s eyes grow huge in the dark

and the storm whimpers for the child.

Both love to see the swinging lamp.

Both are halfway toward speech.

Storms have childlike hands and wings.

The caravan bolts off toward Lapland

and the house senses the constellation of nails

holding its walls together.

The night is quiet above our floor

(where all the died-away footsteps

are lying like sunken leaves in a pond)

but outside the night is wild!

A more serious storm is moving over us all.

It puts its lips to our soul

and blows to make a sound. We’re afraid

the storm will blow everything inside us away.

– “A Winter Night” by Tomas Tranströmer, as it appears in the collection Half-Finished Heaven, translated by Robert Bly and published by Graywolf Press. Reprinted here with permission from the publisher.

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