MIDSUMMER series (5) – The Swedish Forest and a Poet named Tomas
A well-known characteristic of Scandinavian people, most especially the Swedes, is the love of nature. Many Swedes like to spend their free time in the forest or by the sea. In Sweden, nature is really available to everyone as there is a right of common access which applies to all forests, fields, beaches and lakes across the country.
Midsummer reminds the Swedish people that warm weather is finally here (and will linger very briefly) and it is time to get out there and enjoy nature, especially the forest which they truly love. Today I bring you the Swedish people’s intimate relationship with their forest and the poetry of Tomas Transtromer, 2011 Nobel Prize winner for literature.
A Little History of the Swedish People’s
Love of Nature
(especially the forest)
Around the turn of the twentieth century, the dominating part of Swedish society was still agricultural and rural, but a rapid transformation to an industrialised and urban-living nation had started. The changes in society caused tensions that were stabilised by the creation of a myth, initially bourgeois, but later turned to a unifying national identity (Gaunt & Lofgren 1984). The myth included a love of nature and the simple life, and was expressed as a longing for the good old days in the farming village. This view of nature became rather romantic and differed radically from the traditional perspectives in farming societies, which was feasible since nature no longer represented the daily income. It is then likely that the valuation of nature changes as well (Frykman & Lofgren 1979). This relatively recent myth is a second, and maybe most important key, to understanding the Swedish relationship with nature. The relationship with nature has persisted due to the late development of society leading to the lack of a strong urban culture. The myth probably became easier to create since nature was a well-known environment.
|“Midnight Sun in the Swedish Forest” by Tomas Utsi
The valuation of nature today is still high among Swedes. A postal inquiry to adult Swedes showed that a large majority, 94 percent, of the respondents agreed with the statement “spending time in woods and fields, by a lake or by the sea makes me feel relaxed and harmonious” (Uddenberg 1995, p. 177-178). When asked the reason why, the respondent said he/she enjoyed picking berries and mushrooms, fishing or hunting, 75 percent stated the main reason was that they liked to be out in nature. Most parts of Sweden today are dominated by forests. The total land area of Sweden is covered by forest to about 60 percent.
Read more about the relationship of Swedes with the Forest
A Great Poet named
Tomas Gösta Tranströmer (born Stockholm, Sweden,15 April 1931) is a Swedish writer, poet and translator, whose poetry has been translated into over 60 languages. Tranströmer is acclaimed as one of the most important European and Scandinavian writers since World War II. Critics have praised Tranströmer’s poems for their accessibility, even in translation; his poems capture the long Swedish winters, the rhythm of the seasons and the palpable, atmospheric beauty of nature. He was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature.(Info Source)
More about Tomas…Info SourceThe 80-year-old Tomas Transtromer is one of the greatest Scandinavian poets and has had a profound influence in the literary world as Sweden’s most important poet since World War II, an influence that has steadily grown and has now attained a prominence comparable to that of Pablo Neruda’s during his lifetime. But if Neruda is blazing fire, Transtromer is expanding ice.
Transtromer’s poetry thoughtfully explores the unconscious and challenges the reader’s conception of the world. He is also known for his subtle, multi-faceted poetry that typically explores man’s relationship with nature, and reveals mystical insights into the human mind, a result of his training in psychology.
His powerful imageries are often concerned with issues of fragmentation and isolation. Forest is a recurring image in many of his poems. Being in the forest seems to connote a sort of existential abandonment — perhaps a necessary precondition to authentic discovery or salvation. The poem “The Clearing” begins:
“Deep in the forest there’s an unexpected clearing that can be reached only by someone who has lost his way.”
The clearing is enclosed in a forest that is choking itself. Black trunks with the ashy beard stubble of lichen. The trees are tangled tightly together and are dead right up to the tops,
where a few solitary green twigs touch the light.
Beneath them: shadow brooding on shadow, and the swamp growing.”
(Translated by Robin Fulton)
The exotic provenance of images in his poems is balanced by the stones, forests, villages and cities of his native Sweden, the chief metaphors of his meditations on existence.
Learn more about Tomas Transtromer and his works