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Tomas Tranströmer

1931–2015

Tomas Tranströmer was born in Stockholm on April 15, 1931. He attended the University of Stockholm, where he studied psychology and poetry.

One of Sweden’s most important poets, Tranströmer sold thousands of volumes in his native country, and his work has been translated into more than fifty languages. His books of poetry in English include The Deleted World (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011); New Collected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2011); The Sorrow Gondola (Green Integer, 2010); New Collected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2011); The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems (New Directions, 2003); The Half-Finished Heaven: The Best Poems of Tomas Tranströmer (Graywolf Press 2001), translated by Robert Bly and named after a collection that was released in 1962; New Collected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 1997); For the Living and the Dead (HarperCollins, 1995); Baltics (Oyez, 1975); Paths (Författarförlaget, 1973); and Windows and Stones: Selected Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972), an International Poetry Forum Selection and a runner-up for the National Book Award for translation; and Seventeen Poems (Bonnier, 1954).

In his later years, Tranströmer’s work gradually shifted from the traditional and ambitious nature poetry written in his early twenties toward a darker, personal, and more open verse. His work barrels into the void, striving to understand and grapple with the unknowable, searching for transcendence: “I am the place / where creation is working itself out,” he declares in his poem “The Outpost,” about which he wrote “This kind of religious idea recurs here and there in my poems of late, that I see a kind of meaning in being present, in using reality, in experiencing it, in making something of it.”

Tranströmer was the recipient of the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature. His other honors and awards include the Aftonbladets Literary Prize, the Bonnier Award for Poetry, the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the Oevralids Prize, the Petrarca-Preis in Germany, and the Swedish Award from International Poetry Forum.

Tranströmer read at many American universities, often with poet and friend Robert Bly. Tranströmer was also a respected psychologist and worked at a juvenile prison, as well as with the disabled, convicts, and those struggling with addiction. He lived in Vasteras, west of Stockholm.

Tranströmer died on March 26, 2015, at the age of eighty-three.

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