SELECTED POEMS by Gunnar Ekelof


Email this review


This self-determined, paradoxical poet is generally regarded as one of the best Sweden has produced in this, or perhaps any, century. Till now his work has been virtually inaccessible to English readers, though for his part he was deeply conversant with modern British and French poetry and his translations of Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Eliot, Auden, etc., were instrumental in bringing their sensibility to his own country. This is important and rather curious to consider in light of the selections offered here -- two sections from a Byzantine trilogy written shortly before his death in 1968. While his earlier works were experimental and eclectic, ""modernist,"" here he writes on the impulse of his own deepest concerns. Byzantium is neither an ideal nor an exotic escape but the mirror of everything he loathed in his own culture; yet he has a deep affinity for the orient, particularly its mysticism, which he discovered in a youthful recoil from cold family wealth, and learned the ""western"" esthetics of symbolism and surrealism from the works of Ibn el-Arabi. These disparities in his personality and his writing are by now too well fused to be thought of as eclecticism and the austere reduction and selectiveness of his lines makes classical spareness here a means to ecstatic clarity. The translation, a late but evidently loving reciprocation by Auden, captures Ekelof's force, grace, oddity, and the ultimate richness of his monastic temper.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1972
Publisher: Pantheon