Pär Hansson

- Sweden -

Pär Hansson was born 1970 in Vännäs, Västerbotten County, in Northern Sweden.

He has published five collections of poetry at Norstedts Publishing House: Ruckel/Hovel, Familjekista/Family Chest, Lavinflaggor/Avalanche Flags, Motorsågsminne/Chainsaw Memory and Vi plockar bär i civilisationen/Berrypicking Poems. His works have been included in anthologies and published in literary magazines in Sweden and abroad, with translations to the English, Spanish, French, German, Slovakian, Bosnian and Estonian. The spoken word is essential for his writing. Reading the poems aloud in different rooms has been part of his poetic practice since his debut in 1998. He is a member of Sweden's Writers Association Board and one of the editors of the poetry fanzine Grass. He now lives in Hammarbyhöjden, Stockholm, where he organizes readings on his veranda and teaches creative writing at Folk university of Gotland.

If the Language Itself Feels Overwhelming


Today in Sweden culture is expected to be co-devised and marketable. Attractions should be labelled on maps and in tourist guides. It also seems important to distinguish tourist destinations from each other. A gallery is a gallery, and a place for sport fishing is a place for sport fishing. This allows people to declare their interest in fishing and / or indicate their genuine lack of interest in, for example, "culture". This despite the truth that culture is found at every hearth, follows on every journey, and hides itself in every family history.


The poet Pär Hansson has never recognised any dividing line between nature, leisure, history, and literature. His beginnings as an author are in the letters he wrote during his training for the Norrlandsjägare (an elite Swedish-army unit) in Lapland's Arvidsjaur, and the inspiration for his debut Ruckel (Hovel) was taken from stays in derelict Blåliden in Vindeln municipality. There is, as in all his later books, a gazing backwards as if through the rear window of a speeding car. What's depicted in the poems lies at the roadside, rarely in the areas dense with houses and people.


In an issue of Norrland literary journal Provins from 2001 is a short – very short – essay written by musician and poet-colleague Mattias Alkberg with the equally simple title of "Pär Hansson". Alkberg claimed that he was as scared as fascinated by this man, who had the appearance of a sinewy ex-con, but could at the same time create emotional jolts in his poetry readings – "because the language itself felt overwhelming."


When I read this essay, I realized that Hansson was on the way to becoming a minor classic of modern Swedish literature. Today he is one of the few poets whose books are stolen from the library. Ruckel is actually so popular that pirate editions are printed.


In his fifth collection, Vi plockar bär i civilisationen (2012) (Berrypicking poems, or literally We pick berries in civilization), there's a poem that I'd say was very representative of Hansson. The series, dubbed "Tobackadikt", covers four sides and describes a fishing trip. It is difficult to determine whether the poet is remembering a sequence from childhood or just physically revisiting a well-known place.


The poetic "I" describes a gruelling bike ride through a rolling landscape. Evil eyes are cast at passing cars ("scratch the car with the stare scratch the glaze with a gaze") and the curlew lets out its silvery call as the cyclist goes rolling down the oily gravel. If you've ever passed through the small village of Tobacka you'll recognise the landscape with its crazy ups and downs. You'll possibly also have had time to snap up a curlew call, or seen a hare cross the road.


Suddenly the poetic "I" finds himself at the top of a ridge, "yawing in the night smells", passes a steaming ditch and rolls down into a valley. Tobacka rushes by. The next passage describes a sand ridge and a stream called Trinnan. It's not clear whether this is a name that even appears on surveyors' maps but – quite correctly – this is what the stream's called when approaching from the nearby municipality of Vännäs, and this is what it's called in Hansson's poem. From the outside, this small, remote stream is secret; few know this is the best place to land a large, eager trout, or even a small, careful one.


A year ago Hansson's poem about Trinnan and Tobacka was published in Västerbotten's largest newspaper Västerbottens-Kuriren. It drew an unusually large correspondence for something published in the culture section, and poetry too. But the poem didn't create such a strong response because the best poaching spot in Vännäs was suddenly public knowledge, but because poetry – usually so aloof and inaccessible – suddenly broke through. It struck people, with full force, at their breakfast tables. There's no doubt that it'll also be good for sport fishing.


by Erik Jonsson