Issue 1/1983 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Claes Andresson

Claes Andersson. Photo: Johan Bargum.

Claes Andersson (born 1937) became, during the 1960s, one of the few authors to free themselves from the modernist tradition so firmly established in Finland-Swedish writing in the 1920s to create poetry of a more distinctly personal kind. Claes Andersson’s poems are coloured by his training as a psychiatrist; he uses technical language in which scientific terms are exploited as an expressive device. His work also sometimes contains black humour and an ironical element calculated to shock the reader; they reflect the contrast between the dream of beauty and love and the grim reality of evil . To date, Andersson has published eleven collections of poems and a considerable number of plays for the stage, cabaret and radio. He has also written three novels, the latest of which – entitled En människa som börjar likna sin själ (‘The person who began to resemble his soul’) – is to appear in the autumn of 1983. For an introduction to Claes Andersson’s work, see Thomas Warburton’s article in Books from Finland 3/1979. Claes Andersson’s poems have recently appeared in translation in Poetry East, Seneca Review, Scandinavian Review and Grand Street.


My love, the moments I spend
in your cunt I forget my
migraine aching joints drinking problem grand mal paralysis
hallucinations pain between the shoulderblades short-
ness of breath hiccoughs dandruff dry skin vertigo bedwetting
impaired hearing chafed lips pustules liver
spots leg sores bleeding gums flatulence
sciatica crying fits thoughts of suicide swol-
len ankles pathological thirst Angst baldness double
vision facial twinges difficulty concentrating
cross eyes burning in the urethra running ears ring­
ing ears cramps throat pain itching allergies
strange subcutaneous lumps cold hands nail-
biting hoarseness obesity jealousy vomiting
constipation sleeplessness noctural crying fits
failing memory pus in each nasal sinus and gout.

From Rumskamrater (‘Roommates’), 1974)


What became words in me
traces of something forgotten, I
in the next room’s twilight
watched your lips form


Nowadays there’s a lot of talk about identity
As usual people are deeply concerned about something that doesn’t exist
We confuse deficiency with desire
People are capable of swallowing sharp objects (some even do so)
like broken glass, nails, iron filings, pins
and in that way they change their identity somewhat
They crucify themselves in the belief that thus
they become a little more real
There are other methods: charter-trips, unconsciousness and
boozing, workaholism, religion as
a cross to be borne in the belly
We may want to believe but atonement doesn’t do the trick
We put our faith in the life that’s to come, ahead of us we see
souls, wandering souls, soul beside
soul, long processions of souls. We will be disappointed
We have to make do with simpler forms of life:
a few molecules in a blade of grass in the churchyard
a scarcely perceptible scent from the crematorium’s flue
a few crystals in the cold eye of the urn



Have sat at meetings, ticked off items on the agenda, recommended,
                         turned down
Approved the minutes (change "should" in §123 to "ought")
Gone to movies, museums, bars, libraries, homes, deserts, caves
Shoveled snow, played with the children, screamed at the children
                         been bitten by dogs 
Traveled in Europe, the States, Africa, met people
Bought and sold junk and cars, waited for buses, trains, have biked
Given speeches, lectures, been dumbstruck, signed petitions, demonstrated
Read (tons of) books, papers, brochures, hares' and crows' tracks
                         in the snow
Stared at TV, drunk beer, wine, schnapps, kefir, tasted sperm
Awakened in my own bed, in another's, up to now have always awakened
Dozed off over books, steering wheels, bottles, women, in buses,
                         closets, on guard duty
Put on pounds, lost them, exercised, lifted weights, brides over
                         thresholds, odds and ends
Been disappointed, happy, angry, indifferent, enraged, in love,
                         indifferent, empty
Been to funerals, weddings, soccer games, visiting, to crayfish
                         dinners, outhouses
Witnessed deliveries, death throes, christenings, autopsies, orgies
Written plays, traced hearts in the snow, poems, demand notes,
                         prescriptions, crib sheets
Shot rifles, pistols, water guns, mortars, slingshots, blowpipes
Had the mumps, the shakes, anxiety, depression, paranoia, inflamed urethra
Fought with conservatives, radicals, myself, Finns, windmills, my wife
Rented rooms, laundry rooms, apartments, tuxedos, cars, bought
                         houses, potted plants
Been plagued by guilt, small children, nightmares, red-headed lovers
Have asked the meaning of it all
Brooded, deliberated, pondered, constructed, conceived, stopped
Found the questions irrelevant and answered with the answer of
                         the senses
From Tillkortakommanden (‘Shortcomings’, 1981)

Translated by Rika Lesser

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