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Sequences against Omega
Forfatter: Göran Sonnevi
Forlag: Albert Bonniers Förlag (Sverige)
Göran Sonnevis's latest collection of poems shows a great poet far out in his life.


Göran Sonnevi never sheds complexity in his poetry – it is constantly present in his poems. Still, his latest collection of poems opens Sequences against Omega with a fairly simple observation of a butterfly, a grip he repeats many times throughout the book. He identifies and describes insects, birds and flowers as parts of the chaotic and complex world – as when he senses that fewer and fewer species are visible, and that there are major and dramatic changes in nature. The gaze of fauna and flora acts as a point of reference during the reading, and says much about Sonnevi as a passionate, but at the same time sober observer when these creatures emerge in front of, for example, him and his loved ones.

The endless. It is noted that Sonnevi is nearing the end of life – "omega" is also the last letter of the Greek alphabet. In other words, omega stands for the ending, the end – and in mathematics, which Sonnevi clearly knows well, "omega" symbolizes the endlessness. And the poems has something endless about it; some run across many sides and cover everything from the Sweden Democrats, IS, the military coup in Egypt in 2013, a Kurdish-Iraqi refugee couple, the 1915 genocide of the Armenians, sick and dying friends, family, the moon phases of the summer sky, beggars in Stockholm and Istanbul. Sonnevi has no boundaries as to what language can appear in and capture, but he consistently avoids trivialities. The tones and sounds of the poetry exude a clear seriousness, which is heard when Sonnevi reads (more recordings can be found on YouTube). His voice is calm, controlled and muted, but never voiceless or dull – you sharpen your ears while listening. Sonnevi, now approaching 80, sees more and more people dying around him. He writes about these dead, but also of living friends; about the family and about poet colleagues. Hölderlin, Ezra Pound, Simone Weil, Homer, Martin Heidegger, Paul Celan are among the latter. Sonnevi commutes back and forth in (literature) history, and in particular he addresses the Holocaust through his look at Heidegger and Pound's anti-Semitism on the one hand, and Jewish Paul Celan, whose parents were killed in a Nazi death camp, on the other. Time joins the three together – so does time omega, the abyss that will forever separate them from each other. Sonnevi makes no attempt to reconcile these radically different thinkers – but instead turns from one extreme to the other: from the murderers to the murdered and vice versa. That to sells is also a guiding principle in Sonnevi's poetry, something you see traces of in many places:

We shall be in the death that comes Or it 
who does not come He who is your life Such
that is, in his anxiety and in his joy
The phone rings It's our child
wishing good luck In the new year 
I'm telling you about my worries Something else would be
lie, and so I do not want to start the year

Here you can see the breathing breaks quite concretely on paper – this is how Sonnevi reads, and this is his rhythm. He calls it "the dance that comes out of the body":

Then I say,
or hear me say, that for me the poem is without limit Att
for me, prose is a special case of poetry That the central is
the rhythmic organization of language From the body From its dance

One senses a pattern in Sonnevis dans, a pattern one listen – and this is perhaps also Sonnevi's foremost characteristic as a poet. It is in the rhythm of the poems that one finds evidence of the author's authority (an author who is otherwise opposed to everything authoritarian).

Tranströmer and Mozart. Almost imperceptibly, the poet turns his focus to Tomas Tranströmer in the poem «Easter sequence; 2015, Cesur ». Sonnevi is called by a friend who tells him that Tranströmer is dead, after a major brain haemorrhage the week before. Sonnevi thinks about how he sat and listened to Mozart's string quintet K 516 just as Tranströmer was on his way to death. The piece is powerful, dramatic and also in minor – a rarity with Mozart and therefore extra striking. The quintet becomes a kind of sign of the alliance between the two poets. In the sonnet "Tomas Tranströmer's funeral", the last movement in the work is played in the church as the coffin is carried out. The movement is divided into two parts and is preceded by an adagio in minor; then follows a major menu that slowly builds up to an ecstatic, life-affirming dance. As with all time factors at Sonnevi, one also wonders here what really came first: the idea of ​​the string quintet, the dying Tranströmer – or that the piece was played at the latter's funeral.

Mozart has been important to Sonnevi through several releases, including Mozart's third brain, and another sonnet, named after Mozart's quintet, concludes with the words "the possibility of freedom." It is obviously Mozart's creative excess that appeals so strongly to the poet, perhaps especially the lightning – fast twists in Mozart's music, which are reflected in Sonnevi's poetry; a result of thoughts often being redirected by external factors – moments when chance and chance take over control. Deep down, Sonnevi only requires understanding and acceptance of her urge to follow the rhythm in all its complexity.

The Bible and the present. There are Christian holidays in several of the titles – Advent, Easter, Pentecost, All Saints' Eve. The old radical Sonnevi is neither newly saved nor converted; he is still standing well out on the left side. But he often makes use of Bible quotes, often in Latin or Ancient Greek, because the Bible is relevant today as well. End time and apocalypse are phenomena we currently hear about daily. The general, extensive uncertainty about the future, the feeling that ragnarok is near, permeates the poems much as it haunts our bodies.

The Christian confession tradition from Augustine via Luther to Kierkegaard is simply about purifying and refining oneself, and showing one's naked humanity before God – or the reader. The message seems to be that we are all in the same boat, in the same fateful community that humanity constitutes.

The poems can sometimes almost be blown up by facts and knowledge, and a poet with a poorer language skills had not been able to create successful art with Sonnevis' method. There is a certain danger of both exaggeration and "incontinence" in the poems, perhaps primarily due to the format, which sometimes tends towards the extravagant. At the same time, one can hardly find a single stanza that does not sound both linguistically and artistically correct in the context. All in all, Göran Sonnevi has carried out an impressive work but a collection of poetry that extends over 300 pages.

Kurt Sweeney
Kurt Sweeney
Literary critic.

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