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article image2011 Nobel literature laureate Tomas Transtroemer dies

By Pia Ohlin (AFP)     Mar 27, 2015 in World

Swedish poet Tomas Transtroemer, who won the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature, has died at the age of 83, his publishing house Bonniers said on Friday.

Transtroemer, who suffered a stroke in 1990 which affected his ability to speak, wrote poems full of imagery that addressed nature, history and death.

He has been called a master of mysticism, who often presented a dream-like consciousness in which time slows to allow for dissection of the relationship between the inner self and the surrounding world.

"Most of Transtroemer's poetry collections are characterised by economy, concreteness and poignant metaphors. In his latest collections... Transtroemer has shifted towards an even smaller format and a higher degree of concentration," the Nobel jury said when it honoured him.

His books of poetry include "The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems" (New Directions, 2006), "The Half-Finished Heaven" (2001); "New Collected Poems" (1997); "For the Living and the Dead" (1995); "Baltics" (1975); "Windows and Stones" (1972), an International Poetry Forum Selection and a runner-up for the National Book Award for translation; and "The Half-Finished Heaven" (2001).

The poet, who was also a trained psychologist, died on Thursday, according to the Nobel Foundation.

"Saddened to hear of the loss of Swedish poet Tomas Transtroemer who passed away yesterday at the age of 83," the foundation tweeted.

Sweden's foreign ministry also took to Twitter, writing: "Sad news. Swedish poet and Nobel Prize winner Tomas Transtroemer has left us. But his words will never die."

Transtroemer suggested that the poetic examination of nature offered insights into human identity and its spiritual dimension, which often enters metaphysical territory.

"A human being's existence does not end where the fingers end," one Swedish critic said of Transtroemer's poems, which have been described as "secular prayers".

Transtroemer's reputation in the English-speaking world owes much to his friendship with American poet Robert Bly, who has translated much of the Swede's work into English, one of 60 languages in which his poems have appeared.

Born on April 15, 1931 in Stockholm, Transtroemer was raised alone by his mother after his father left them. He graduated in psychology in 1956 and later worked in an institution for juvenile offenders.

In his parallel careers as psychologist and poet, he also worked with the disabled, convicts and drug addicts while, at the same time, producing a large body of poetic work.

When he was 23 and still a psychology student, Transtroemer's first collection of poetry, "Seventeen poems" was published by Bonniers, northern Europe's most prestigious publishing house.

Bonniers has described Transtroemer's poetry as "a permanent analysis of the enigma of the individual identity faced with the labyrinthian diversity of the world".

In 1966, he received the Bellman prize, which was followed by numerous others, including the Bonner award for poetry, Germany's Petrarch prize and the Swedish Academy's Nordic prize.

In 1997, the working-class city of Vaesteraas, where the poet lived for three decades before moving back to the capital Stockholm in the 1990s, established a special Transtroemer prize.

After publishing 10 volumes of poetry, Transtroemer suffered a stroke in 1990 which affected his ability to talk and permanently damaged his right hand.

Following a break of six years, he came back with "Grief Gondola", a collection that sold 30,000 copies in his native Sweden, a stunning figure by poetry standards.

In the wake of this success, Transtroemer published nothing for eight years, except for his correspondence with Bly, before returning in 2004 with a collection of 45 haikus, Japanese-style poems invoking an aspect of nature or the seasons.

Music then became more important to the accomplished amateur pianist than his writing, playing everyday and spending his mornings listening to classical music, he told a Swedish newspaper in 2011.

Transtroemer was married and had two daughters.

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