Posted on April 15, 2015
To mark Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer’s recent passing, we share this recording of his 92Y reading from January 9, 1989. Today would have been his 84th birthday.
Here is his prose poem, “Reply to a Letter,” translated from Swedish by Goran Malmqvist.
REPLY TO A LETTER
In the bottom drawer I find a letter which arrived for the first time twenty-six years ago. A letter written in panic, which continues to breathe when it arrives for the second time.
A house has five windows; through four of them daylight shines clear and still. The fifth window faces a dark sky, thunder and storm. I stand by the fifth window. The letter.
Sometimes a wide abyss separates Tuesday from Wednesday, but twenty-six years may pass in a moment. Time is no straight line. But rather a labyrinth. And if you press yourself against the wall, at the right spot, you can hear the hurrying steps and the voices, you can hear yourself walking past on the other side.
Was that letter ever answered? I don’t remember, it was a long time ago. The innumerable thresholds of the sea continued to wander. The heart continued to leap from second to second, like the toad in the wet grass of a night in August.
The unanswered letters gather up above, like cirrostratus clouds foreboding a storm. They dim the rays of the sun. One day I shall reply. One day when I am dead and at last free to collect my thoughts. Or at least so far away from here that I can rediscover myself. When recently arrived I walk in the great city. On 25th Street, on the windy streets of dancing garbage. I who love to stroll and merge with the crowd, a capital letter T in the infinite body of text.