If I were a poet laureate, where would it be? Perhaps in Sweden. Not that I have any particular tie to that country. But I've been intrigued by the story of Swedish poet Tomas Transtrommer, the newly announced winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
He sounds like a writer after my own heart. For one thing, he is a retired psychologist who always wrote poetry "in his spare time," as one account put it.
That is an experience I can understand, although haven't written poetry since high school. I set writing aside to become a psychologist, and it was many years before I began to write creative nonfiction. So now I understand the experience of pursuing art, whether writing or music, around the edges of a serious "day job" that is also a calling.
From what I've read, Transtrommer has always written about ordinary things: sunsets, nature, music--even his commute to work. That made me smile, because I wrote much of my first book during my long daily train ride to and from my office.
Another thing to admire about him: He seems to have been committed to his art without taking himself too seriously. He is Sweden's leading poet and has been a favorite for the Nobel Prize for years. But according to his wife, he was surprised when he got the news, in a belated phone call that came just as the couple was preparing to watch the announcement on television. Apparently he never took the talk too seriously.
I've read just one poem of his, so far. It's called Allegro. It's about sitting down to his piano to play a piece by Hayden, at the end of a particularly dark day:
"The keys are ready. Kind
The sound is spirited,
green, and full of silence.
The sound says that freedom exists."
(from "Allegro" by Tomas Transtrommer, translated by Robert Bly)
Sometimes I feel the same kind of solace when I sit down to play my accordion.
So if I were a poet laureate, I would hope to be a poet like that.
Here is a link to the poet in his younger years, reading "Allegro" in the original Swedish.
Causes Blair Kilpatrick Supports
Louisiana Folk Roots, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Habitat for Humanity/Musician's Village New Orleans, Doctors Without Borders