Gunnar Bjorling

You go the Words

Action Books

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?
					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
					all all is here
					all is now
					here is nothing
					and here is- all
					But when
					and all and
					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

				as the everyday moment

				O no beauty But your light

				- a smile
				what and to know