Swedish Modernist poetry
Swedish modernist poetry denotes modernist poetry of Swedish literature. It developed in the 1930s and 1940s. Distinguishing features was the lust to experiment, and to try a variety of styles, usually free prose without rhymes or metric syllables.
The lead figure of the modernists soon turned out to be Hjalmar Gullberg (1898–1961). He wrote many mystical and Christianity influenced collections, such as Andliga övningar (Spiritual Exercises, 1932), but continued to develop and published his greatest work, Ögon, läppar (Eyes, Lips), in 1959.
Gunnar Ekelöf has become described as Sweden's first surrealistic poet, after he debuted with the poetry collection sent på jorden in 1932, a work was too unconventional to become appreciated. But Ekelöf moved towards romanticism and got betters reviews for his second poetry collection Dedikationen in 1934. A work that became influential for later Swedish poets was his Färjesång in 1941, a finely expressed blend of romanticism, surrealism and the dark clouds of the ongoing World War II.
Edith Södergran did not achieve fame during her lifetime, but is today regarded as one of the foremost modernistic poets from the Nordic countries, and she has been translated into all major languages. Her first poetry collection was Dikter in 1916, but it was her second collection, Septemberlyran (1918) that caught the attention of a larger audience. It is distinguished by a kind of beauty that had not been seen for a long time. Södergran suffered from tuberculosis, which took her life as early as 1923.
Harry Martinson had an unparalleled feeling of nature, in the spirit of Linnaeus. As typical for his generation, he wrote with a free prosody, not bound by rhymes and syllables. A classic work was the autobiographical Flowering Nettles, in 1935. His most remarkable work was however Aniara, 1956, a story of a spaceship drifting through space.
The arguably most famous Swedish poet of the 20th century is otherwise Tomas Tranströmer (1931–2015). His poetry is distinguished by a Christian mysticism, moving on the verge between dream and reality, the physical and the metaphysical.
Notes and references
- Lundkvist, Martinsson, Ekelöf, by Espmark & Olsson, in Delblanc, Lönnroth, Göransson, vol 3
- Algulin, p.230-231
- Poeten dold i Bilden, Lilja & Schiöler, in Lönnroth, Delblanc & Göransson (ed.), vol 3, pp.342-370
- Algulin, Ingemar, A History of Swedish Literature, published by the Swedish Institute, 1989. ISBN 91-520-0239-X
- Gustafson, Alrik, A History of Swedish Literature (2 volumes), 1961.
- Lönnroth, L., Delblanc S., Göransson, S. Den svenska litteraturen (ed.), 3 volumes (1999)
- Swedish Institute, Modern Literature, accessed October 17, 2006
- Tigerstedt, E.N., Svensk litteraturhistoria (Tryckindustri AB, Solna, 1971)