The Great Enigma, new collected poems by Tomas Transtromer, translated by Robin Fulton (New Directions)

The Scottish poet Robin Fulton has devoted more than 30 years to rendering Transtromer's work in English. The results are stunning in their simplicity and penetration. In a 1973 interview, Transtromer said, "These poems are all the time pointing toward a greater context, one that is incomprehensible to our normal everyday reason. Although they begin in something very concrete." This other-ness is the undefinable but still audible element in his work. Many of the poems both describe and act as critical events, disturbing perception with a strange clarity of language and tenacious modesty. And so often, the sense of a world just beyond one's grasp: "The truth's there, on the ground / but no one dares to take it. / The truth's there, on the street. / No one makes it his own." This "collected" spans work from 1954-2004. The Nobel people tend to reserve their literature prize for writers with victimized profiles or bona fide third-world credentials. (No knock on Orhan Pamuk, but ...) Transtromer deserves the recognition, even if the dread, surprise, uncertainty and assertion in his work are triggered not by politics or culture wars but by an overwhelming Scandinavian silence that broods over the entire world. [$16.95/paper]