Robin Robertson is from the northeast coast of Scotland. His fifth collection of poetry will be published next year. (June 2012)

IN THE REVIEW

Keys to the Doors

for Eilidh I loved your age of wonder: your third and fourth and fifth years spent astonished, widening your eyes at each new trick of the world—and me standing there, solemnly explaining how it was done. The moon and stars, rainbows, photographs, gravity, the birds in …

The Dead Sound

Looking back,
I knew it was over:

the way you hear
a pot break

and you can tell,
with no sign

of a crack, just by
the dead sound it makes

that it’s gone, that it’s
only a matter of time.

The Double World of Tomas Tranströmer

Tomas Tranströmer, Paris, March 1995
The landscape of Tranströmer’s poetry has remained constant during his fifty-five-year career: the jagged coastland of his native Sweden, with its dark spruce and pine forests, sudden light and sudden storm, restless seas and endless winters, is mirrored by his direct, plain-speaking style and arresting, unforgettable images. Sometimes referred to as a “buzzard poet,” Tranströmer seems to hang over this landscape with a gimlet eye that sees the world with an almost mystical precision.

Fire Graffiti

Throughout those dismal months my life was only sparked alight when I made love to you. As the firefly ignites and fades, ignites and fades, we follow the flashes of its flight in the dark among the olive trees. Throughout those dismal months, my …

Solitude (I)

I was nearly killed here, one night in February.
My car shivered, and slewed sideways on the ice,
right across into the other lane. The slur of traffic
came at me with their lights.

NYR DAILY

Flayed Alive by the Bacchae

Ancient Greek kylix showing a Maenad and Satyr, fifth century BC

They would have torn us to pieces, those Bacchae.

Instead, they turned—bare-handed—

on our herd of grazing cattle.

A single woman pulled a mewling calf in two,

while others clawed apart a full-grown heifer.

There were spread ribs and broken hooves
flung everywhere,

and pieces of flesh hung

dripping from the trees.

The Double World of Tomas Tranströmer

Tomas Tranströmer, Paris, March 1995

The landscape of Tranströmer’s poetry has remained constant during his fifty-five-year career: the jagged coastland of his native Sweden, with its dark spruce and pine forests, sudden light and sudden storm, restless seas and endless winters, is mirrored by his direct, plain-speaking style and arresting, unforgettable images. Sometimes referred to as a “buzzard poet,” Tranströmer seems to hang over this landscape with a gimlet eye that sees the world with an almost mystical precision. A view that first appeared open and featureless now holds an anxiety of detail; the voice that first sounded spare and simple now seems subtle, shrewd, and thrillingly intimate. There is a profoundly spiritual element in Tranströmer’s vision, though not a conventionally religious one. He is interested in polarities and how we respond, as humans, to finding ourselves at pivotal points, at the fulcrum of a moment.