You go the Words
reviewed by Steven Karl
Translated from the Swedish by Fredrik Hertzberg
Action Books (2007)
You go the words, which first appeared in 1955, is now available in an Swedish/English translation by Action Books. The immediate feeling I had while reading this collection is how fresh the poems are, this book could easily have been written yesterday. Björling’s sparse use of words has left reviews and book blurbs gushing about his Creeley-ness, (being compared to Creeley is not a bad thing) and while I’m quick to agree this reference provides a good starting point, I think it needs to be emphasized that though Björling’s style is similar to Creely’s, he was roughly a generation older than him, and was the creator of his own complex, varied world.
What makes this such an exhilarating collection of poems is Björling’s vision combined with his sense of craft. His use of articles, the way in which he structures the poems, allows the little words to succeed in doing the work.
-we believe it and if not so sure? but and can believe in it and so a day and a day
The poem relies on fragmented logic fueled by repetition, especially the repetition of and, to anchor the beginning of lines, which sets forth a simplistic rhythm allowing the but to almost enact a caesura. The line “and so a day and a day” is typical of Björling’s style— a slow and steady layering, reiteration of image until it becomes close to an incantation. Here’s another example which is the last poem from section two:
it is all here all all is here all is now here is nothing and here is- all But when and all and that and has come One time and I in loneliness
Björling’s practice was to write a poem then go back and meticulously erase phrases and words, which results in making the appearance of his poems visually slight, but what he actually achieves is a strange cadence creating a dance within our heads as we connect the dots between what is written and what is left out.
This collection contains the exuberance of living and the many let-downs of failure, the slow sadness that comes from nowhere and settles into our bones, the longing for love and success, and an appreciation for the littlest of joys.
And to not speak more it takes a life to say but- as the everyday moment O no beauty But your light - a smile what and to know