AUDIO: Dark and Stormy: A Night of Contemporary Swedish Poetry with Malena Mörling and Robert Hass

sbmh-newest(These notes were compiled by Two Lines Press intern Zuha Khan.)

As a part of San Francisco’s Litquake Festival, Two Voices and Green Apple Books teamed up to bring internationally acclaimed poet and translator Malena Mörling and former United States poet laureate (and translator) Robert Hass to discuss Swedish poetry in translation. The event, which occurred on October 15th, focused on the recently published anthology of Swedish poetry from the 20th and 21st century, The Star by My Head (Milkweed Editions in partnership with The Poetry Foundation). The poems span the beginnings of Modernism to the present day and feature eight of Sweden’s most highly regarded poets, including Nobel Prize winner Tomas Tranströmer—all poems in this volume were translated by Mörling and her co-editor Jonas Ellerström. Mörling and Hass discussed the breathtaking poetry, the differences between the English and Swedish language, and the translation process, among other things.


00:00 Introductions

5:40 Robert shares how he knows Malena, and ruminates about the importance of translation

8:28 Discussing Swedish poetry’s intense, brooding inwardness

9:20 Malena discusses Swedish literature as a phenomenon

10:28 Discussion of Swedish poet Gunnar Ekelöf

11:29 Reading of a Gunnar Ekelöf poem & discussion of poem & translation process

15:07 Malena & Jonas’s translation collaboration process

16:20 Back to discussing Ekelöf (influenced by Surrealism & Sufiism)

18:03 Discussion of Swedish poet ‪Edith Södergran‬

21:17 ‪Edith Södergran‬’s “I Saw A Tree” reading & discussion

24:20 ‪Edith Södergran‬’s “Decision” reading & discussion about translating her

30:30 Swedish poet Karl Werner Aspenström discussion

32:08 Aspenström’s “You & I & The World” reading & discussion

34:55 Aspenström’s “You Have To Practice Reality” reading &discussion about the loss of transcendence in 20th century poetry

37:43 Aspenström’s “After Having Played Mozart All Day” reading & discussion

38:55 Poet Tomas Tranströmer’s life story, the effects his stroke had on his writing & music

44:23 Tomas Tranströmer’s “Secrets on the Way,” and discussion about realizing one’s presence in the fabric of time and life

47:07 Tomas Tranströmer’s “Tracks” reading & discussion

48:38 Hass’s story about translating Tranströmer in the 1980s and the disparities/challenges between American translators working on Swedish poetry

50:10 Malena discussing the challenges of translating poems

52:25 Q&A Since most contemporary Swedish poets are bilingual in Swedish and English, do they do their own translations?

53:42: Q&A Do you write poetry? Did you write poetry before translating? Does your poetry match the voice of the poetry you translate?

54:18: Q&A Do you have a favorite poem from the collection?

55:42 Q&A How did you select the authors from a whole century of Swedish poetry?

58:20 Q&A How do you teach poetry? [to Malena]

59:44 Q&A Do you write poetry in Swedish or English? [to Malena]

1:01:01 Q&A Do you have a metaphor for the English language?

1:04:12 Closing with a reading of poems: written by Kristina Lugn and Marie Lundquist

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