Tomas Tranströmer, winner of 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature
The illuminating letters of Nobel Prize winning poet Tomas Tranströmer and the celebrated American poet and writer Robert Bly.
One day in spring 1964, the young American poet Robert Bly left his rural farmhouse and drove 150 miles to the University of Minnesota library in Minneapolis to obtain the latest book by the young Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer. When Bly returned home that evening with a copy of Tranströmer’s The Half-Finished Heaven, he found a letter waiting for him from its author.
With this remarkable coincidence as its beginning, what followed was a vibrant correspondence between two poets who would become essential contributors to global literature. Airmail collects more than 290 letters, written from 1964 until 1990, when Tranströmer suffered a stroke that has left him partially paralysed and diminished his capacity to write.
Across their correspondence, the two poets are profoundly engaged with each other and with the larger world: the Vietnam War, European and American elections, and the struggles of affording a life as a writer. Airmail also offers remarkable insights into the processes of translating literature from one language into another. As Bly began to render Tranströmer’s poetry into English and Tranströmer began to translate Bly’s poetry into Swedish, their collaboration soon turned into a friendship that has lasted fifty years.
Insightful, brilliant, and often funny, Airmail provides a rare portrait of two artists who have become integral to each other’s particular genius. Based on the original Swedish edition published in 2001, this publication marks the first time letters by Tranströmer and Bly have been made available in Britain.
Robert Bly's translations of Tomas Tranströmer appear in The Half-Finished Heaven: The Best Poems of Tomas Tranströmer, published by Graywolf Press. Tranströmer's complete poetry is available in English in Robin Fulton's translation, New Collected Poems, published by Bloodaxe Books (and by New Directions in the US under the title The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems).
'...a book of real importance...this is a generous, intimate book. It should be required reading for everyone interested in poems and the making of poetry.' - Fiona Sampson, The Guardian
'I spent early summer days with Airmail: The Letters of Tomas Tranströmer and Robert Bly. In March 1964 Bly drove across Minnesota to borrow Tranströmer’s latest collection from a library. On his return he found a letter from the Swedish poet. With this coincidence began 26 years of letters. It’s an elegant, humorous and illuminating collection.' - Mary O'Donoghue, Irish Times, Books of the Year 2013
North America: Graywolf Press
Tomas Tranströmer, winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature
Tomas Tranströmer suffered a stroke in 1990, which deprived him of most of his speech and left him unable to use his right arm. But he was also an accomplished classical pianist. Unable to speak more than a few words, he could still express himself through music, despite only being able to play left-hand piano pieces. Swedish composers wrote several left-hand piano pieces especially for him to play. This film by Pamela Robertson-Pearce and Neil Astley combines contemporary footage of Tranströmer, including his piano playing, with archive film and recordings of earlier readings. The English subtitles to Tranströmer's readings of his poems in this film are Robin Fulton's translations from New Collected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2011).