Monday, November 20, 2006

Poem of the Week 11/20/2006: A Few Moments

A Few Moments

The dwarf pine on marsh grounds holds its head up: a dark rag.
But what you see is nothing compared to the roots,
the widening, secretly groping, deathless or half-
deathless root system.

I you she he also put roots out.
Outside our common will.
Outside the City.

Rain drifts from the summer sky that's pale as milk.
It is as if my five senses were hooked up to some other creature
that moves with the same stubborn flow
as the runners in white circling the track as the night comes misting in.

by Tomas Transtomer
translated by Robert Bly 2001

Robert Bly's interest is in poetry that is highly metaphorical; he is one of the most vocal members of the "Deep Image" school of poetry, which writes images that harmonize with the spiritual interior of a human. Much of his work has been translating poets such as Transtomer, Vallejo, and others whose names I cannot remember. He asks for a poetry that is almost Biblical in the symbolism of its imagery, I suppose.

I read this poem as an articulation of man's subconscious. This subconscious is scattered, complex, growing, unknown, much like the imagery and form of this poem. Transtomer opens with an image establishing, on one level, the smallness of man: "the dwarf pine." He personifies the tree, for it holds its poor head up, "a small rag." The pine is usually a tall tree, but, as I remember, a dwarf pine is a species that cannot grow much higher than the height of a man (please somebody correct me if I am wrong!). Thus, in this image is the idea of something stunted, limited, meager. With the pine, "what you see is nothing compared to the roots."

This line, though, offers a second interpretation of the tree. It may not merely be a humble human, but man's visible, or conscious thoughts. What we see of what we think, for most, comprises little of actual existence. Most of existence, the subconscious, is a tangled web of roots. Like the subconscious, the roots are unknown and complex, "widening [and] secretly groping." Looking deeper into the image, we find that roots feed a tree, which implies that subconscious feeds us.

Speaking of subconscious, sleep is taking over my brain. I will finish this tomorrow, I hope. It is beautiful; I hope you all agree.

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