A Posthuman Reading Tranströmer

I thought it would be interesting to see if posthuman theory would apply to a poet such as Tranströmer. My example is the first poem in his work Sorrow Gondola, (1996). In general it deals with themes of the Anthroprocene such as anxiety about climatic changes and the absence of agency. With Sedlmayrs idea of the inorganic and the ‘metallization’ of the organic. Longing for the inorganic as a posthuman condition in mind, I think that the poem “April and Silence” proposes and interesting example of the exact opposite.

Spring lies forsaken.
The velvet-dark ditch
crawls by my side
without reflections.

The only thing that shines
are yellow flowers.

I am cradled in my shadow
like a fiddle
in its black case.

The only thing I want to say
glimmers out of reach
like the silver
at the pawnbroker’s.

The setting is seemingly night. The time of year is on the brink of spring, implying the death of someone in the season of life. The lack of light in the case of reflections and the cradling shadow stands in contrast with the two things that do shine in the dead of night, the shining yellow flowers and the glimmering silver. First, the flowers appear to be the only thing that is not artificial. Secondly, they are an oxymoronic trope because without light there is no color. What I see here is not a metallization of the organic. On the contrary the “flowers” demetallize what could be seen as the lampposts’ yellow lights in the street. So it would seem that the narrator is longing for the organic in the inorganic. In a way you could say that the flowers represent a shift in which the city and electronics are not alien inorganic things. Instead the city has become an iron garden. And in the end the glimmering silver seems to suggest that man’s silverware will outlive himself.

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Daniel Anthony Slater
Admittedly I am not familiar with Tranströmer’s work at all, so I may not be the best to comment on this. I find your analysis of the poem very interesting, because the first line ‘Spring lies forsaken’ which reminds me of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring from 1962, which speculates the severe loss of biodiversity due to chemical spillage. This then, for me, underscores the organic image of the flower and the focus on it that you highlight in its juxtaposition with the darkness of the rest of the poem, and even more with the juxtaposition of the other shining part… Read more »