Gunnar Björling [Trans. Fredrik Hertzberg]
Gunnar Björling is not a name known to many outside of Scandinavia, largely because his poems have not been widely or professionally translated and published in English — until now. You Go The Words introduces Björling’s final collection to an English-speaking audience, and includes translator Hertzberg’s versions alongside Björling’s Swedish originals. For students of American modernist poetics, Björling’s terse poems will be an odd and exciting revelation.
In his brief but enlightening introduction to the work, Hertzberg notes that during his lifetime, Björling’s characteristic “lack of syntax” was noted by critics as a major flaw of his poetic sensibility. But Björling’s defiance of grammatical norms has perhaps become his greatest legacy. Indeed, “I am in it and I/shall not meet/–the still /that the never/predicted” is a lovely stanza, whether it reads like a prose sentence or not. Indeed, like the rest of the poems in the collection, it’s stronger and better for Björling’s strange and lovely linguistic manipulations.