by Johannes Goransson on Jan.06, 2011
Lars Norén is internationally renowned as a naturalist playwright (and perhaps for the fact that while putting on a performance with prisoners as actors, some of the prisoners escapes and committed murder). But back in the 1960s and 70s, before he became a famous playwright, Norén was an enfant terrible of Swedish poetry, the author of several visionary books of poetry that I love.
In particular, I love the corpse-litterd 1969 book Revolver. I read it the first time a few years ago when I was in Stockholm because it was a favorite of a lot of people I know and respect (Aase Berg, Johan Jönson, Jesper Olsson etc). I got it from the library and read it straight trough over a few hours, and was totally shaken, electrified by the experience. Since then, I have often used the structure and “feel” of that book as a kind of model or goal for my own poetry (there comes moments in my writing where I search my way toward a kind of Revolver-feeling). Of course, other than a few stanzas I wrote down in my notebook, I only read it that one time many years ago, so I’ve never been worried about plagiarism…
I love the extreme saturation of violent imagery, and the visionary crammed-in structure. A friend of mine told me that the way these books were composed was: Norén would show up at Bonniers with a couple of plastic bags full of poetry, which then a secretary (probably an unsung hero of Swedish literature) helped him type and arrange the books, and whether or not that is true, you get that feeling from the structure of the book: 215 pages of poems with minumum spacing between poems (which include a lot of found or lifted texts, including Dylan Thomas’s entire poem “24 Years”). But even the individual poems seem “crammed in” – the unit of composition is not the sentence, not the line, not the image; rather the visions seem too much for any of those categories; as a result the poems seem like transcriptions that cannot be contained, that breaks the sentence, line and image. Before one line or image is “finished” the poems have already moved on. The periods often seem to come in the middle of sentences, and often they seem like “false” stops (ie it doesn’t stop).
It’s part Rimbaud, part Trakl, part Celan, part Ginsberg, part Alice Notley (Norén had obviously read the first four, obviously never heard of the last one).
For the longest time, I have intentionally not read this book again because I was sure I would be disappointed. But last week I finally went for it and bought a copy on an online used-book store (it’s a beautiful white-and-silver design from 1969) and I got it yesterday in the mail and wows, it’s still just as great. Just amazing.
Here’s a hasty translation of the final poem:
Final Song on the Morning of Eva Braun’s Death
The wooden boxes, the sand, the summer,
The obscurity. From there
Smeared in oil and winter,
Girl and car garage
Dress of scrapes, film, rain, hardness
Have a dress. Memories
From Eva Brauns’ body snows in and
Finally cover over the portals. There is nobody
From the soil. It is still
The thirties. Grass on the floor, it is
Different, the apartment with
The white friends in underwear in
The burning grass. It is
Still the same. The house is
Empty. In the morning when
They went in to her in the
Brown leather sofa, wintry,
Cut off, stood and looked out
On the morning. Nicotine which has to do with
The dead, long ago, like drought.
The naked body itself in the pit. The noise
From your mother, not yet among
The farmers, a 78-rpm record
Inside death. The girl from the
Brown farm, car garage
From the winter and oil. The greenery
Comes, the hands lay closed and
Hard, the leather belt and
Eva Braun in a puritan grave. They
Were both pulled out. With him
I could disappear. Afterward I was
As empty inside, in the underwear,
And heard the summer get going. The
Privates all stepped down in a pit which was
Strewn with air, burnt paper,
The brown carpet. Tortured
Tonight again by dentists and
Corpses that sat in an hole in the ground
Close together, sat in the grass and
Were tortured by money.