Born in Stockholm, Sweden, on April 15, 1931, Tranströmer grew up with his mother, a primary school teacher, and his maternal grandfather, a ship’s pilot. He attended high school during Sweden’s postwar boom years, and after his obligatory military service, he spent eight years traveling and studying a variety of subjects at the University of Stockholm. In 1958, Tranströmer married Monica Blach and began working as a psychologist in Stockholm until, in 1960, he took a job as a psychologist in residence at an institution for juvenile delinquents near the city of Linköping.
By this time Tranströmer had published 17 dikter (17 Poems, 1954), which anthologized a selection of poetry written in his late teens and early twenties, and Hemligheter på vägen (Secrets on the Way), which broadened Tranströmer’s poetic style and revealed some of the experience he gathered while traveling in Europe and Africa. During the 1960s, the poet came under the attack of certain Swedish critics, but his reputation began to grow internationally. Tranströmer became particularly successful in the United States, partly due to his friendship and collaboration with the American poet Robert Bly, a relationship that has continued for over forty years. Bly has long been one of the most influential translators of Tranströmer’s poems into English, although Robin Fulton’s translation of the complete works has become a standard text.
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