This is a poem by the Finland-Swedish female poet Edith Södergran, who lived from 1892 to 1923. Her early death was due to tuberculosis. She lived many places during her lifetime, also in the Finnish forests, composing poems quivering with intense sensibility, emotion and originality. She is one of the definitely most interesting poets of her time. As her brief life was punctured by illness, her poems sometimes have a feverish life-celebrating glow to them while others are marked by a welcoming of death.
Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, by Swedish-speaking Finnish parents, she attended a German all-girl school in St. Petersburg facing the grand Winter Palace, home of the tzar. Here she was taught German, English, French and Russian - but no Swedish, which was her mother tongue. She wrote her innovative poems in Swedish anyway.
Her verse was free and modern. No doubt she had been influenced by other authors; Nietzsche was of her favourites for a time. But her voice is everywhere clearly a woman's. This in itself must have been a novelty in the early 1900s. She has been described as an expressionist as well as a modernist, but at the same time she is at odds with more central modernist poets. Her poems are often passioned, etheric, visionary, fantastic, feminine (or even feministic) -- all in all different and unique.
I have risked translating a small poem. Seeing as my mother tongue is not Swedish but Norwegian, this is slightly daring, but our languages are so alike that they are almost counted as dialects. Anyone is invited to suggest improvements, though ;-)
Till fots fick jag gå genom solsystemen
fick jag gå genom solsystemen,
innan jag fann den första tråden av min röda dräkt.
Jag anar ren mig själv.
Någonstädes i rymden hänger mitt hjärta,
gnistor strömma ifrån det, skakande luften,
till andra måttlösa hjärtan.
On foot my path wound through the solar systems
my path wound through the solar systems,
until at last I found my red robe's first thread.
I already have a sense of who I am.
Somewhere in space my heart's suspended,
sparks flowing from it, quavering the air,
reaching out to other speechless hearts.
This is one of her minor poems, and I will probably try to translate a few of her other, more famous poems. But when, I do not know.