Sunday 29 March 2015


In 1984 Jan Garbarek released a record called It's OK to listen to the gray voice, whose title I recognised as a line from a Tomas Transtromer poem. I'd been reading Transtromer for a long time, and I had already written poetry inspired by various jazz tunes, including some by Garbarek and Eberhard Weber. Listening to this music prompted a couple of poems, a second-generation pass-the-parcel regeneration. I find they're closer to the music than to the original poem, though not a shade on either, but I am pleased I can still find echoes of music and poetry in them.

I wrote this poem in July 1986. As it happened, the next summer I met Garbarek and Weber on a flight to Oslo for the Bislett Games, and I got them to sign a chapbook of mine called Mucho Mojo which I happened to be carrying, and which included a poem written after a tune by Weber. I sent the two Transtromer/Garbarek poems to him ('just put Jan Garbarek, Oslo,' he told me. 'That's all the address you'll need') but I heard no more.

Now Tomas Transtromer has died. I'll likely write more on him soon, but for now I'll share one of those poems. 'The Crossing Place' was published in Hollands Maandblad in 1988, and in The Windhorse Review (Yarmouth, Nova Scotia) in 1993. I was intending it to be the title poem of a short collection...


Empty borders extend
All the way into the center of the night
I could be
Driving a heap through downtown Bridgeport
At 3am snow falling & wipers
Rocking me to sleep. I know
If I sleep now, with this image in my mind
I will have dreams, & I may never wake
Again. They may take
Me across the ocean which divides me
From myself, never again be there
On the other side, where you were
Waking, sleeping, peacefully where
Falling snow makes a blanket, sparkling
Then melting, to keep us warm.

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