Saturday, 21 March 2009
The Swedish poet Karin Boye (1900-1941) ranks with some of the foremost poets of twentieth century Europe in the depth and far-sightedness of her literary project, which underscored and examined the collapse of values, the bloody wars and the rise of the brutal totalitarianism that characterized the the early part of the century. Boye belongs with Giuseppe Ungaretti, T.S. Eliot, Saint-John Perse and a number of other poets of modern Europe who moved from an early fascination with power and aesthetic extremes to a more general, cosmic view of humanity. Using her own experience of psychoanalysis, she charted the inner and outer significance of political fascism for the individual, showing in allegorical and acutely personal terms how it imprisoned the psyche and ultimately destroyed the soul. In Sweden, she was a modernist before the advent of poetic modernism there.
The Karin Boye Society has created a website which chronicles and documents the poet's life and work. My own translations of her poems are linked to there, and I have placed online the entire contents of my Complete Poems of Karin Boye (1994), which includes a biographical profile.