Saturday, April 5, 2014

E is for Ekelöf

Gunnar Ekelöf
Gunnar Ekelöf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gunnar Ekelöf was a Swedish poet and writer who lived from 1907 to 1968. He won many awards for his poetry. He has been described as Sweden's first surrealist poet.

I discovered Gunnar's poetry while browsing a library book sale. Selected Poems of Gunnar Ekelöf, translated by Muriel Rukeyser and Leif Sjoberg. It stood out, being the only poetry book on the shelf. Curious, I picked it up and opened to a random page. I don't remember what page that was, but the poetry resonated with me. I read a few more poems, then bought the book.

When One Has Come as Far as I
by Gunnar Ekelöf

When one has come as far as I in meaninglessness
every word becomes once more interesting
Finds in the mould
which someone has turned with an archaeologist's spade:
The little word you
perhaps a glass pearl
that once hung at the throat of someone
The big word I
Perhaps a flint shard
with which someone in toothlessness scraped his tough flesh

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Today's poetry prompts from both NaPoWriMo and 30 Day PoetryChallenge both have to do with using an existing poem. So I've picked some of Ekelöf's translated poems to work with.

I don't think Ekelöf would mind:

Augustine says, "Tag och läs! and take for good what you read." I mean with "Tag och skriv!" Read, and make it your own, give it your own expression. --Gunnar Ekelöf

Since these are longer poems, I'll just share one today. This one is a blackout poem. "Find a poem written by someone else. Make it new by crossing out or deleting select words."

I am using the poem Euphoria, translated by L. Nathan &J. Larson. (Another E word!)

Euphoria

You sit in the garden alone with your notebook, a sandwich,
                                            flask, and pipe.
It is night but so calm that the candle burns without flickering,
spreads its glow over the table of rough planks
and gleams in bottle and glass.

You take a sip, a bite, and fill and light your pipe.
You write a line or two and give yourself pause and ponder
the thin streak of evening red slowly passing to the red of morning,
the sea of wild chervil, green-white foaming in the darkness
                                            of summer night,
not one moth around the candle but choirs of gnats in the oak,
leaves so still against the sky … And the aspen rustles in the
                                            stillness:
All nature strong with love and death around you.

As if were the last evening before a long, long journey:
You have the ticket in your pocket and finally everything is packed.
And you can sit and sense the nearness of the distant land,
sense how all is in all, both its end and its beginning,
sense that here and now is both your departure and return
sense how death and life are as strong as wine inside you!

Yes, to be one with the night, one with myself, with the candle’s flame
which looks me in the eye still, unfathomable and still,
one with the aspen that trembles and whispers,
one with the crowds of flowers leaning out of darkness to listen
to something I had on my tongue to say but never got said,
something I don’t want to reveal even if I could.
And that it murmurs inside me of purest happiness!
And the flame rises … It is as though the flowers crowded
                                            nearer,
nearer and nearer the light in a rainbow of shimmering points.
The aspen trembles and plays, the evening red passes
and all that was inexpressible and distant is inexpressible and near


I sing of the only thing that reconciles,

only of what is practical, for all alike.
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