One day in spring 1964, the young American poet Robert Bly left his rural farmhouse and drove 150 miles to the University of Minnesota library in Minneapolis to obtain the latest book by the young Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer. When Bly returned home that evening with a copy of Tranströmer’s The Half-Finished Heaven, he found a letter waiting for him from its author.
With this remarkable coincidence as its beginning, what followed was a vibrant correspondence between two poets who would become essential contributors to global literature. Airmail collects more than 290 letters, written from 1964 until 1990, when Tranströmer suffered a stroke that has left him partially paralysed and diminished his capacity to write.
Across their correspondence, the two poets are profoundly engaged with each other and with the larger world: the Vietnam War, European and American elections, and the struggles of affording a life as a writer. Airmail also offers remarkable insights into the processes of translating literature from one language into another. As Bly began to render Tranströmer’s poetry into English and Tranströmer began to translate Bly’s poetry into Swedish, their collaboration soon turned into a friendship that has lasted fifty years.
Insightful, brilliant, and often funny, Airmail provides a rare portrait of two artists who have become integral to each other’s particular genius. Based on the original Swedish edition published in 2001, this publication marks the first time letters by Tranströmer and Bly have been made available in Britain.
Robert Bly's translations of Tomas Tranströmer appear in The Half-Finished Heaven: The Best Poems of Tomas Tranströmer, published by Graywolf Press. Tranströmer's complete poetry is available in English in Robin Fulton's translation, New Collected Poems, published by Bloodaxe Books (and by New Directions in the US under the title The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems).
'...a book of real importance...this is a generous, intimate book. It should be required reading for everyone interested in poems and the making of poetry.' - Fiona Sampson, The Guardian