Preface by Björn Julén
After all, Karin Boye´s poetry is about
quite simple things - how to live and how life should be lived. It is
about the pain of imperfection when perfection is desired. "Yes,
of course it hurts", she says in one of her most often quoted poems.
It does hurt as no person alive can ever be the one he or she really wants
to be. But it was just in this pain of imperfection that her poems came
into life. Many of them are love poems in which her aspirations are so
much stronger than what she attains with her words. In a similar way other
poems are about openness, justice and clarity. "Afflicted by Purity"
is a formula for her constant efforts to understand the mystery that the
contradictory life had given her insight into. There is no purity in life.
It might exist in art, in poetry where she wanted "to paint a wooden
spoon in such a way, that people had an inkling of God". To meet
Karin Boye´s poems the first time is therefore to understand the
duality between dreams and reality. Her words are often very beautiful,
her poems vibrate of intrinsic music. But behind these beautiful words
and this music, her anxiety and her split personality can be felt. Life
is never what it ought to be. Reality escapes our dreams and walks its
low paths, far from the clouds she wrote about in her first collections
of poems. It is exactly this contrast that gives her poetry timeless life.
Those of us who read her today, recognize ourselves through good and ill.
She reaches us all the way and comes into us with her beautiful and bitter
insight. Is that why we can so openly accept her words today, half a century
after the end of her own life? Perhaps it is the duality in our own lives
which makes her our companion, a Swedish classic.
Björn Julén is an associate
professor in literature and head of the Karin Boye Society 1989-1999.
Text: Björn Julén.
Translation into English: Rune Tideholm
Layout and presentation: May and Hans Mehlin
Publication with the permission of:
Björn Julén, author and publisher of Parnass.
Rune Tideholm, translation into English