Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bruno K Öijer

I'm kind of writing an essay someone asked me to write about the gurlesque. Well it's about the relationship of the gurlesque to Plath and B-movies and Jack Smith, and it talks about Lara, Dodie Bellamy, Aase Berg and Chelsea Minnis.

But I can't work anymore tonight because I'm tired and because I started to read the big collected poems of Bruno K. Öijer (b. 1951), by far the most popular poet in Sweden over the past 50 years. A kind of gothic-surrealist Ginsberg (Ginsberg actually gave him a blurb of sorts back in 1975) with his own punk band and a "touring schedule". Incredibly influential on not just poetry but also culture at large. (For example, my favorite band in the 1980s, Imperiet, not only covered one of his poems, but were clearly influenced in their imagistic/metaphoric decadent style).

Here are some of his poems he translated for Action, Yes.

He published his first book when he was 21 ("Song for Anarchism", 1973). And then the next year he published "Photographs of the Apocalypse's Smile", which includes the poem "Sweden" (which prompted me to write this entry); here's a rough translation of the ending:


It is YOU who is alive
the others don't even dare to look up
we pat down the bodies all over
you push in the ears
& hear
how poorly they sing
the buses start up, everyone shouts
"come in"
you continue down the steps
with the animal skeletons
further down
toward the newborn children
who have been bricked into the air

[the lines got messed up - they are supposed to be spread out]

Per Bäckström has a piece in the same issue of AY about Öijer's reception.

It's a very interesting reception and it pertains to a lot of discussions we've had on this blog recently. At that time, Swedish cultural life (and especially poetry) was largely run by Marxists who had real trouble with him, constantly accusing his poetry of being "bourgeois" because of the excess of images/metaphors. (An interesting aside: they were largely middle-class cultural bureaucrats with university training, Öijer was the child of a working class single mother.).

Anyway, I love his poems, especially his early stuff. It's got heavy doses of Surrealism, Mayakovsky, the Beats, and Dylan in it. So basically all the good stuff.

Here's a youtube clip (I love the drama, and he's one of those types who has memorized every single poem he's every written; I can't even remember my own name):


Blogger Ross Brighton said...

If you're having layout problems posting poems, a trick I use is to stick underscores for the required indent, then turn them white.

9:07 PM  

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