Among horses

30 June 1998 | Authors, Interviews

Tua Forsström

Photo: Cato Lein

‘Now it’s really damned difficult to know whether these poems will be close to the reader, or strange,’ Tua Forsström said a couple of days before the publication last autumn of her collection Efter att ha tillbringat en natt bland hästar (‘After spending a night among horses’).

Her previous collection, Parkerna (‘The parks’), published five years ago, found its readers and swept the board of literary prizes. The new poems, too, come close to the reader; the book’s Finland-Swedish publisher has sold out and the prize-boards have been swept again, including the Nordic Council Prize for Literature.

Writing the new collection took five years, as was the case with Parkerna. Tua Forsström writes slowly: nine collections in a quarter of a century. Her first collection, En dikt om kärlek och annat (‘A poem about love and other things’), appeared in 1972.

‘I write so slowly that it is almost perverse. I always carry pen and paper with me; I am always making notes. I put my pieces of paper together into workbooks. After a year or so I arrange the connections between my notes, and find myself throwing out about eighty per cent.’

Forsström lives in an old primary school in Tenala in western Uusimaa province. But she puts the finishing touches to her work abroad, in the United States, Rome, the Spanish Costa del Sol or in Sweden.

‘I write everything fifty or sixty times. That is what is almost perverse.’

Reading and writing are, for Forsström, two sides of the same coin, and she eagerly records her reading experiences, which then move into her poems and thus to her readers. Rainer Maria Rilke is Forsström’s closest poetic companion, and the Duino Elegies an influential book. In this new collection, her interlocutor is named as the Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky.

Among Swedish poets, Forsström cites Gunnar Ekelöf, Werner Aspenström, Tobias Berggren and Katarina Frostensson. The Finland-Swedish poet Claes Andersson is often present in Forsström’s work; at one time they had the jovial habit of sending one another greetings in their books.

‘I can only hope to offer new images, new elements, visions, to my readers’ consciousnesses. For the reader continues the writer’s work. It is a question of a slow inner process which it is impossible to measure.

‘In my texts I try to convey a view of how it is more important to see what unites people rather than what separates them.’

As Claes Andersson – poet, psychiatrist, pianist and cultural minister – has written, intimately and well and perceptively: ‘Tua Forsström writes more beautifully than almost any poet I know perhaps because she knows that what is important happens on the periphery, in small shifts and breaking points, at the edge of the void. The reality she makes visible is not simplified, not idealised, but is alive in its paradoxes and complexities. Smiles and laughter are not far from grimaces of pain.’

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