Jeanette Lee Atkinson on Karl Ragnar Gierow (1980) page 14
A sceptic´s way
A contrasting but complementary perspective is presented in ”Flyttfåglar” (Birds of Passage), in which earthbound figures watch migratory birds disappear like the years that have gone by.
Yes now they leave us, and the sky fills up with tears
just like a farewell gaze at their clear cry.
We follow with our gaze as in past years,
when we were young still, and they hastened by.
Skall jag taga vara på min broder? (Am I my Brother’s Keeper?) of 1968 is Gierow’s most problematical volume of poetry. It is the one collection that has none of his typical lightness and grace. The strictness of the form, rigorous even for Gierow, underscores the tense, serious impulse of the work. Not only are the individual poems stylized, but the entire volume is arranged as a three-part musical composition with a postlude. The first section, ”Fugato,” is marked by a social-critical impulse, while the middle part, ”Modulationer” (Modulations), is mystical and aphoristic. The last division, ”Fuga” (Fugue), is composed in the extremely difficult form of the ”sonnet wreath,” a cycle of fifteen sonnets. Each sonnet begins with the last line of the preceding text, and the final sonnet is made up of all the first lines in the order of occurrence. This cycle, like the dramas, concentrates on questions of guilt, responsibility and the source of evil. Its anti-hero is Cain, who paradoxically assumes a kind of redeeming role.
This book raised the ire of certain critics who viewed Gierow’s concentration on guilt and, more concretely, human misery in the Third World as defeatist and hopeless. For the critic committed to the idea of a changeable society, Gierow’s depiction of life’s cruelty and inequity without any real note of hope was unpardonable. To add insult to injury, Gierow satirized the protest-and-placard mentality futility and self-righteousness addition to the social-critical and pointed out the futility and self-righteousness of such agitation. In impulse, ”Fugato” is marked by an intense scepticism. In ”Epitafiskt” (Epitaphic) Gierow writes, ”You raise the tombstone when the earth has sunk together / For then arises that small vacuum, which was I.” ”All Skapelses Bön” (The Prayer of All Creation) is a merciless depiction of life as ”a crawling swarm, which tramples to death all the surplus life that sees daylight.” The poet who affirms that ”the coarsely grotesque takes place in love’s most heavenly home,” hears in the shrill din of mating frogs the breathing of the Godhead. ”Fugato” also contains a passionate defense of the individual. Gierow may be referring to himself when he writes in the second ”Eremite Song.” ”I go my way, my own way / my own.”