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Sweden’s Tomas Tranströmer is a poet almost helplessly drawn to those in-between states that form the borderlines between waking and sleeping, the conscious and the unconscious, ecstasy and terror, the public self and the interior self. Often labeled surrealistic, his poems are shorn of surrealism’s romantic privileging of randomness. Although his work abounds in visionary moments, he examines them as a scientist would--not rhapsodically, and certainly not as some sort of magus or shaman. His stance is the epitome of grace under pressure.
Earlier (English) versions of Tranströmer now seem a bit shopworn and inadequate—owing to, among other things, outmoded diction, British-isms that can seem jarring to American ears, and a general inability to capture Tranströmer’s mellifluous but astringent music. Patricia Crane’s translations, many of them done in collaboration with Tranströmer and his wife Monica, avoid such pitfalls; they are tautly rendered, imagistically acute, and elegantly cadenced. They offer American readers a Tranströmer befitting our new century.