by S.A. Barstow

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S.A. Barstow sings poems by Tomas Tranströmer


released February 3, 2012

Music by S.A. Barstow
Lyrics by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robin Fulton
Recorded by Teun De Voeght
Mixed by Thomas Janssens
Graphic design by Maarten Dings

poems from: Tomas Transtromer, New Collected poems, trans. Robin Fulton (Bloodaxe Books, 2011)



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S.A. Barstow Gent, Belgium

‘Murmurations’ is the first album of the solo project S.A. Barstow by singer-songwriter Teun De Voeght. Ten poems of the Swedish poet and Nobel Prize winner Tomas Tranströmer were put to music and brought together in this acoustic anthology.
‘Murmurations’ is dedicated to his sister’s firstborn, Maud.
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Track Name: A Page of the Night-Book
from 'The Sad Gondola' (1996) by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robin Fulton.

I stepped ashore one May night
in the cool moonshine
where grass and flowers were grey
but the scent green.

I glided up the slope
in the coulour-blind night
while white stones
signalled to the moon.

A period of time
a few minutes long
fifty-eight years wide.

And behind me
beyond the lead-shimmering waters
was the other shore
and those who ruled.

People with a future
instead of a face.
Track Name: Secrets on the Way
from 'Secrets on the Way' (1958) by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robin Fulton.

Daylight struck the face of a man who slept.
His dream was more vivid
but he did not awake.

Darkness truck the face of a man who walked
among the others in the sun’s strong
impatient rays.

It was suddenly dark, like a downpour.
I stood in a room that contained every moment –
a butterfly museum.

And the sun still as strong as before.
Its impatient brushes were painting the world.
Track Name: Looking through the Ground
from 'Paths' (1973), by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robin Fulton.

The white sun is soaking through the smog.
The light drips, gropes its way down

to my deep-down eyes that are resting
deep under the city looking up

seeing the city from below: streets, foundations –
like aerial photos of a city in war

the wrong way round – a mole photo:
silent squares in somber colours.

The decisions are taken there. No telling
bones of the dead from bones of the living.

The sunlight’s volume is turned up,
it floods into flight-cabins and peapods.
Track Name: Crests
from 'Bells and Tracks' (1966), by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robin Fulton.

With a sight the lifts begin to rise
in high blocks delicate as porcelain.
It will be a hot day out on the asphalt.
The traffic sighs have drooping eyelids.

The land a steep slope to the sky.
Crest after crest, no proper shadow.
We fly there on the hunt for You
through the summer in cinemascope.

And in the evening I lie like a ship
with lights out, just at the right distance
from reality, while the crew
swarm in the parks there ashore.
Track Name: Solitary Swedish Houses
from 'Secrets on the Way', by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robin Fulton.

A mix-max of black spruce
and smoking moonbeams.
Here’s the cottage lying low
and not a sign of life.

Till the morning dew murmurs
and an old man opens
- with a shaky hand - his window
and lets out an owl.

Further off, the new building
stands steaming
with the laundry butterfly
fluttering at the corner.

in the middle of the dying wood
where the mouldering reads
through spectacles of sap
the proceedings of bark-drillers.

Summer with flaxen-haired rain
or one solitary thunder-cloud
above a barking dog.
The seed is kicking inside the earth.

Agitated voices, faces
fly in the telephone wires
on stunted rapid wings
across the moorland miles.

The house on the island in the river
brooding on its stony foundations.
Perpetual smoke – they’re burning
the forest’s secret papers.

The rain wheels in the sky.
The light coils in the river.
Houses on the slope supervise
the waterfall’s white oxen.

Autumn with a gang of starlings
holding dawn in check.
The people move stiffly
in the lamplight’s theatre.

Let them feel without alarm
the camouflaged wings
and God’s energy
coiled up in the dark.
Track Name: The Tree and the Sky
from 'The Half-finished Heaven' (1962), by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robin Fulton.

There’s a tree walking around in the rain,
it rushes past us in the pouring grey.
It has an errand. It gathers life
out of the rain like a blackbird in an orchard.

When the rain stops so does the tree.
There it is, quiet on clear nights
waiting as we do for the moment
when the snowflakes blossom in space.
Track Name: Winter's Gaze
from 'The Wild Market-Square' (1983), by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robin Fulton.

I lean like a ladder and with my face
reach into the second floor of the cherry tree.
I’m inside the bell of colours, it chimes with sunlight.
I polish of the swarthy red berries faster than four magpies.

A sudden chill, from a great distance, meets me.
The moment blackens
and remains like an axe-cut in a tree-trunk.

From now one it’s late. We make off half-running
out of sight, down, down in the ancient sewage system.
The tunnels. We walk about there for months
half in service and half in flight.

Brief devotions when some hatchway opens above us
and a weak light falls.
We look up: the starry sky through the grating.
Track Name: From the Hill-Top
from 'The Half-finished Heaven' (1962), by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robin Fulton.

I stand on the hill and look across the bay.
The boats rest on the surface of summer.
‘We are sleepwalkers. Moons adrift.’
So say the white sails.

‘We slip through a sleeping house.
We gently open the doors.
We lean towards freedom.’
So say the white sails.

Once I saw the wills of the world sailing.
They held the same course – one single fleet.
‘We are dispersed now. No one’s escort.’
So say the white sails.
Track Name: Through the Wood
from 'The Half-finished Heaven' (1962), by Tomas Tranströmer, translated Robin Fulton.

A place called Jacob’s marsh
is the summer day’s cellar
where the light sours to a drink
tasting of old age and slums.

The feeble giants stand entangled
closely – so nothing can fall.
The cracked birch moulders there
in an upright position like a dogma.

From the bottom of the wood I rise.
It grows light between the trunks.
It is raining over my roofs.
I am a water-spout form impressions.

At the edge of the wood the air is warm.
Great spruce, turned away and dark
whose muzzle hidden in the earth’s mould
drinks the shadow of a shower.
Track Name: A Winter Night
from 'The Half-finished Heaven' (1962), by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robin Fulton.

The storm puts its mouth to the house
and blows to produce a note.
I sleep uneasily, turn, with shut eyes
read the storm’s text.

But the child’s eyes are large in the dark
and for the child the storm howls.
Both are fond of lamps that swing.
Both are halfway towards speech.

The storm has childish hands and wings.
The Caravan bolts towards Lapland.
And the house feels its own constellation of nails
holding the walls together.

The night is calm over our floor
(where all expired footsteps
rest like sunk leaves in a pond)
but outside the night is wild.

Over the world goes a graver storm.
It sets its mouth to our soul.
And blows to produce a note. We dread
that the storm will blow us empty.