by Johannes Goransson on May.28, 2012
Here’s an interview Peter Connors (a scholar of Bataille, translation theory, modern French literature) conducted with me the other weekend when I visited Barnard for a panel with the Swedish poetry Jörgen Gassilewski and Anna Hallberg. I can’t remember what I said and I hate listening to the sound of my own voice so I’m not going to listen to it, but you can! If you want to!
Gassilewski and Hallberg talked about their new anthology 32 Poets from 2011, which consists of 32 poets who either had their first books published in the 00s or came to more prominence (as in the case of Johan Jönson). It is part of a tradition of similar anthologies in Sweden – anthologies that deal with poets from the 90s or 80s etc. Like its predecessor, 15 Poets from the 90s (which included Aase Berg, Helena Eriksson, Eva Stina Byggmästar etc), this is a really fine anthology. Full of great stuff – some of which I knew, some of which I didn’t, some of which I knew extremely well from having translated it for various projects (Viktor Johnson and others).
It might seem that this decades model would be really reductive and centralizing, but that doesn’t really seem to be the case. I was thinking about this today… Why wouldn’t this be totally boring? It actually results in really great stuff. I think this might be because there’s an assumption that new stuff will happen. Unlike US poetry, which is still so largely controlled by elders who seem to be scared of anything that challenge their aesthetics, and who go crazy promoting the younger poets that reinforce their aesthetics, Swedish poetry’s reductive model seems to assume that there’s a new generation, so it will bring some new ideas to the table.
This is true of a lot of the award, reviews etc as well. In the US, poets like Aase Berg and Johan Jönson are considered weirdos and published by small small presses. In Sweden they are published by Bonnier and they win these huge Pulitzer-style awards. And they are reviewed in the national press and appear on television. Partly this is of course a different climate, a climate in which poetry still maintains a slightly higher profile, but it’s also due to the fact that a lot of the awards are judged by younger writers (even the Swedish Academy that gives out the Nobel has this wild, experimental novelist on it). The people writing reviews in the newspapers are largely the younger poets, so you don’t merely get as much of the restricting, repressive Hoagland/Poetry magazine apparatus that disapproves of all the new “skitterish” poems who challenge their aesthetics. Though those people of course exist in Sweden too. And I may be totally wrong…