For Tranströmer

by Norman Dubie

In the cold heavy rain, through
its poor lens,
a woman
who might be a man
writes with a can of blue paint
large numbers
on the sides of beached whales –

even on the small one who is still
living, heaving
there next to its darkening mother
where the very air is a turnstile …

I’m certain this woman is moved
as anyone would be –
her disciplines,

a warranted gift to us,
to business, to government,
and our military,

and still she exhibits care and patience
this further
talent for counting,

counting …

Notes on the Poem

Let's toast his 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize win by looking again at "For Transtromer" by Norman Dubie from his poetry collection The Quotations of Bone. When one artist dedicates a work to another, what impact does it have on the reader / viewer / listener? Norman Dubie has offered up this poem to revered Swedish poet, psychologist and translator Tomas Tranströmer, who received the Griffin Lifetime Recognition Award in 2007 and went on to win the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature. Tranströmer passed away in 2015, and the flood of tributes to him made it abundantly clear that he moved and inspired many people around the world. That Dubie has not only dedicated a poem to him, but made that dedication the poem's title, speaks to some profound impression or impact. What might that impact be? Was the artist offering the dedication inspired by the other artist's style and craft, subject matter, how the artist lived his or her life? What do the images laid out in measured and striking fashion in Dubie's poem seem to suggest? Over the course of many Poem of the Week selections and considerations, we've encountered this practice before. Most notable was Michael Longley's poignant salute to friend and colleague Seamus Heaney in the poem "Boat". Interestingly, the full depth and complexity of that particular tribute is perhaps still being unfurled. Are you compelled by an intriguing dedication to learn more about the subject of the dedication or the one offering the tribute?

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