Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sunday Mini-Challenge - Swedish poetry and Karin Boye

Hello toads and a happy weekend to you, this is Björn Rudberg, premiering writing a prompt for you. I hope you like a little inspiration from our small country far up north.

Karin Boye around 1940
When I grew up poetry had very little importance to Swedes, very few read poetry, and it was rarely heard. There is one exception to this rule, and that is Karin Boye (1900-1941). I think almost every Swede can still say which is the favorite poem of Karin, and start to recite a few lines. Like for example.

Ja visst gör det ont

Ja visst gör det ont när knoppar brister.
Varför skulle annars våren tveka?
Varför skulle all vår heta längtan  
bindas i det frusna bitterbleka?
Höljet var ju knoppen hela vintern.
Vad är det för nytt, som tär och spränger?
Ja visst gör det ont när knoppar brister,
ont för det som växer
                              och det som stänger.

Or in English

Yes, of course it hurts

Yes, of course it hurts when buds are breaking.
Why else would the springtime falter?
Why would all our ardent longing
bind itself in frozen, bitter pallor?
After all, the bud was covered all the winter.
What new thing is it that bursts and wears?
Yes, of course it hurts when buds are breaking,
hurts for that which grows
                         and that which bars.

Or listen to this little clip with her own voice.

Though it's hard to translate her voice, it's quite unique. Her use of metaphors and consistent rhythm (or beat) at the same time using rhymes that never obscure the meaning is quite unique in Swedish Poetry. She used simple words and her poems were often short and precise. Fortunately they are all available online at a, and many of her poems are also available in translations (English and German). 

She was famous already during her life-time and was on the verge on an international success with her a novel Kallocain: a dystopian book that complements the vision of totalitarian state with that of Orwell and Huxley. It is translated to English but quite hard to find I think.

She died after a suicide with sleeping pills, and many still think that it was the developments in Europe that was the cause. In reality as is often is the case, it was unrequited love. Karin was bi-sexual and lived in a lesbian relationship at a time when it was prohibited in Sweden. Her insight into this forbidden side of herself is quite apparent in her earlier poems.

She was also active leftist and worked actively for Clarté a Marxist newspaper, but toward the end of her life she was also disillusioned with the totalitarian side of Communism. There is much more to read about her in Wikipedia.

Today, if you feel up to it, check out her poetry on , and get inspired.


Hannah said...

I thoroughly enjoyed perusing this poet's work, thank you for the opportunity to learn of Karen and Swedish poetry, Björn. :)

Kerry O'Connor said...

Yes, of course it hurts when buds are breaking..

What a line! Every transition comes with some cost. Thank you for bringing this poet to our garden, Bjorn.

Helen said...

Looking forward to learning more about Karin .. thank you for a most intriguing challenge.

Vandana Sharma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vandana Sharma said...

Thanks a lot for introducing us all to such lovely poetry.

Anonymous said...

Bjorn--this post is particularly appreciated by me I think given my Swedish ancestry and I know so little of it. (I am told I am related to Dahlgren--but I don't know his work--maybe you do.)

The poem that you quoted is so beautiful and her reading was wonderful to hear. I don't know what I may be able to do, but I really appreciate the introduction, whether I can rise to the challenge or not. Thank you thank you. K.

brudberg said...

This is a true challenge for me as well.. I will see what I can come up with.. (but mostly i look forward to reading your offering) .. and Karin I thought of you of course -- sharing the first name..

hedgewitch said...

I have to echo Karin, Bjorn--both my grandparents were born in Sweden, and I grew up hearing the language spoken often--as a child I could even speak a bit, but of course, that's long gone.This is a seriously good poem you present. I love the sound and cadence of the reading, and thanks again for hosting this prompt--I will see what I can do though I am pressed this weekend.

humbird said...

Love the poem, read and going to read more of mysteriously sensual poetry by Karin Boye...Thank you, Bjorn for interesting choice for the challenge.

Susan said...

Read many of her poems in English, enjoying her clash of opposites and quiet desperation. I hope I hint at that.

I didn't attempt the rhyme (though you will feel the meter) as I am away from home with minimal time of my own.

Thank you for this poet who is new to me.

Anonymous said...

I had never heard of Karin Boye, but after perusing some of her stuff, I am hooked. Thanks for introducing us to her work, Bjorn.

Fireblossom said...

If former Detroit Red Wings hockey player Tomas Holmstrom wrote poetry, it could be in his trademark Swedelish. ;-)

ZQ said...

Thanks Bjorn! She is new to me and look forward to reading more of her work.

Scarlet said...

Thanks for the introduction Bjorn ~ I enjoyed browsing through her life and work ~

Happy weekend to all ~


Marian said...

wonderful, wonderful! thank you, Bjorn.

Kerry O'Connor said...

I feel I am off my game at present but I did want to try a kind of response to both Friday and Sunday's challenge. It's not quite right, but as good as it will get.

Susie Clevenger said...

Thank you so much for introducing us to this poet...a beautiful voice.

Margaret said...

Thank you. I am getting to this SO late (12:30 a.m. already where I am) so I will also link this with Open Link Monday.

Thanks for the introduction to her - and i responded with more of a feeling she left me with instead of writing in her style… which with the time I was given would have been too much - rhythm and rhyme and metaphor all rolled into one poem usually stretches my abilities…. :)

Margaret said...

I will return here tomorrow and visit and comment… Goodnight everyone…