Harry Martinson

by Harry Edmund Martinson

Start Free Trial

Michael Meyer

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 222

Martinson, now well over seventy, is (or was) a genuine proletarian poet who served for years as a merchant seaman and made his mark in the 1920s and 1930s with splendidly simple yet perceptive poems and prose memoirs, a sort of Swedish W. H. Davies. Sadly, there exists a deep-seated belief among Swedish critics that to achieve top rank a writer must prove himself djupsinnig (literally "deep-minded"), which in practice means writing [a kind of woolly pseudo-philosophy] …, and after the war Martinson turned to this depressing genre, producing novels such as The Road to Klockrike and poems like "Aniara", both of a pretentious emptiness. (But they paid off; had he stayed simple, I am sure he would never have won the Nobel Prize last year.) Fortunately, Mr. Bly [editor and translator of Harry Martinson, Gunnar Ekelöf and Tomas Tranströmer: Friends, You Drank Some Darkness] has avoided this side of Martinson's work and stuck to the simple poems, like "Out at Sea":

  At sea you know spring or summer just as a faint wind.
  Sometimes in summer the drifting Florida-weed puts out blossoms,
  Or one spring evening a spoon-billed stork flies in towards Holland.

Michael Meyer, "The Call of the Deep," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1975; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 3842, October 31, 1975, p. 1287.∗

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Leif SjöBerg


Christopher Howell