Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition)
“Everyone Is a World” is a paradoxical poem, setting up an impossible coexistence of the singular and the plural individual, of imprisonment and freedom, and of powerlessness and power. Its paradoxical statement well represents Ekelöf’s poetry. A modernist rebel poet who believed in the individual and who feared the dehumanization of an increasingly mechanized and bureaucratic society, Ekelöf wrote many poems with a similar message. With the title of the 1945 collection Non serviam and in poems such as “I believe in the solitary human being” (the Swedish original appears in Färjesång), Ekelöf fiercely placed himself as an outsider and a rebel. He also believed that it was exactly by finding and capturing in poetry what was unique within himself that he might express a universal human soul and be able to share experiences with other human beings. As a poet, he did so again and again. Thus, paradoxically, the outsider and rebel becomes the true insider, the speaker for humankind.
In “Everyone Is a World,” Ekelöf writes that human beings are plural. Equally often, in other poems, he maintains the opposite: that to be human is to be nobody. In the poetry sequence “Write It Down,” Ekelöf writes, for example: “You say ‘I’ and ‘it concerns me’/ but it concerns a what:/ In reality you are no one.” One could argue that Ekelöf is inconsistent, but in his view, the plural and the nonexistent self are not...
(The entire section is 395 words.)
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