Author: Gösta Ågren

High above the years

23 September 2011 | Fiction, poetry

In Gösta Ågren’s poetry austere aphorisms alternate with concrete observations of life in a small village that was and again is his home, and with portraits of people he has met on his journey in the world. Introduction by David McDuff

Poems from the collection I det stora hela (’On the whole’, Söderströms, 2011)

Father’s hands

Father’s hands were like stiff
gloves; a furious
kettle had bewitched them
in his childhood. We ride
from the church’s tall letter
along the river’s long sentence
to the parenthesis of the bridal house,
and the thunder of three hundred hooves
fills the space beneath the clouds.
I saw father driving through
his life with those numbly
gripped reins, and later,
right now, I think of the
life-long body in which a man
comes, is wounded, and goes. More…

The prisoner and the prophet

Issue 2/1997 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Timmermannen (‘The carpenter’, Söderströms, 1996). Introduction by Jyrki Kiiskinen

The greatest message

Reader, love is
a secret, waiting
for wind, not a choice
between loving or not.
As commandment, degraded
to demand, it will soon be
fanatic like a wound,
a form of hate. How
could a secret
become reality
without dying? Every
decree destroys its region. Made a law
goodness turns
into the protecting
skin, with which the good
touches everything. A demand
for understanding, that,
which we call wisdom,
makes of wisdom
an armour, a cold
father around us.
The real communication is
his life. Against evil stands
the tale of a face.
How could such a secret
become real
or die? More…

The return of Orpheus

Issue 4/1992 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

from Hid (‘Coming here’, Söderströms, 1992). A Valley in the Midst of Violence, a selection of poems by Gösta Ågren translated by David McDuff, was published by Bloodaxe Books of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1992. Introduction by David McDuff

No poet can endure
being dead, a sojourn without
meaning and method. He needs
order and rhythm. His poems
are really laws. He
always turns back
from the underworld, which resembles
the everyday.

The darkness hides the screams
around him, when
the way begins. The sun is
only black heraldry, only
a cavern in the sky
of stone, and he sees
it, without being blinded. More…

Alone here

Issue 1/1989 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Gösta Ågren has published a couple of dozen volumes of poetry; Jär (the title is a dialect word meaning ‘here’) won the Finlandia Prize in 1989. Ågren’s earlier poems have been epic, tinged with Marxism, in the style of Whitman and Neruda. Gradually his has become more strongly linguistically concentrated, developed towards a more conventionally lyrical style questioning the problem of existence. He himself has expressed the matter in one of the paradoxical statements he particularly enjoys: ‘don’t worry / it will never work out.’ Introduction by Erkka Lehtola


Here she came, through the motion­
less Sunday of old age.
In headscarf and long skirt
she came, a tall bird
of clothes. She wondered in
the sunlight on the shed-hill
what she should do
so she could die. I must
write about this. For it happens
everywhere, and there are no
questions to answer. But questioning
is already insight. Only
those questions that are never asked
need answers. I remember
that her hands were no longer
part of her. Idle
they lay in her lap. She saw
with her eyes only darkness
and light. It was silent. I
thought: the silence is creeping
through her body. Soon
it will reach her heart. Soon
I will be alone
here. More…

The starving, too

Issue 2/1983 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Poems from Det som alltid är (‘What always is’). Introduction by Sven Willner 

The starving, too

The starving, too, can
love, but their love is
simplified to hunger, its
principle. With the help of
another’s love the sated love
themselves, which they
otherwise would hate. And
stronger is perhaps the love
that saves,
but deeper is the one that
seals. People, of
whom all that is left is
a heart and its
two arms, give one another
their hunger. More…