Bengt Berg was born in 1946 in Torsby, Värmland, Sweden. He studied German and Nordic languages & Literary and Art studies at Uppsala University. He worked as a freelance writer and translator since 1975. Berg was a Member of the Swedish Parliament from 2010 to 2014.
Since 1990, Bengt has operated the publishing house, Heidruns Förlag, and an Art Café in his home village Fensbol near Torsby in the Province of Värmland.
Bengt Berg’s debut poetry collection, Where the Dream Ends, appeared in1974; and since then he has written more than thirty books, mostly poetry. His poems have been translated into Nordic languages, as well as Arabian, Hebrew, English, German, Dutch, Greek, Romanian, Spanish, Turkish, Polish, Russian, Latvian, Vietnamese, Hindi and Malayalam. In 2014, he published his Collected Poems, Dikter genom 40 år.
He has participated in many poetry festivals, including Medellín (Colombia), Granada (Nicaragua), Struga (Macedonia), och Druskininkai (Litauania), Nisan (Israel), Jan Smrek Festival (Slovakia), Kritya (India), Târgul Festival de Poezie (Romania), Poetry on the Road (Bremen, Germany), among others. Berg has won several Swedish Literary prizes, among them some from The Swedish Academy.
Bengt Berg’s poems ”are full of humour and warmth, and characterized by sharp insights into the oddities of people and situations. With time he has become more and more aware of form — without sacrificing other merits — and his poems appear at times to have been written by an Eastern master.” In his poetry the author offers experiences learned in life blended with curious observations of daily realities. Humour is woven into the poems but Berg has also explored themes that are unusual for this genre. In his programmes before live audiences, Bengt Berg is a humourist with a serious side, a performer who gladly stretches the boundaries between different art forms and traditions in poetry. These public appearances contribute to the fact that his books enjoy unusually high sales on the Swedish market.
A New Year
A New Year seldom comes alone,
in tow it hangs all days-of-the-year
like sea-shells threaded
on a string of wind, filled by
forgotten sailors’ songs.
A New Year is date-stamped, and comes
with the seal of growth-rings; after some months
you can buy the recently new calender
A New Year provide us with a blind-fold
just because we will get appeased with the shower of sparks
from the New Year rockets which try to exceed
the Karla carriage, while clinking from champagne glasses —
more and more sounds like somebody’s way home
over night-old ice.
A New Year makes us grown up once again,
just like Christmas transformed us like children
— once again. (The difference is that the child can see
how its longing becomes his fulfillment, while
we grown-ups ensure that the living
candles do not burn to the end).
A New Year gives us hope that —
what we didn’t want to happen — will not happen,
that the mornings of the New Year should be as shining
as the olives before disappearing
in the Quattro Staggione oven.
A New Year is something that we already know a lot of —
like unexpected smiles that will meet you
in the street freely, like idiotic [drivers] overtaking at will,
like Spring Equinox,
like summer flowers,
like it is time for changing to studded snow-tyres.
A New Year to enter, just to be met
by the perenial current question:
what prevents you from happiness?
In the foreign city
with an incomprehensible language
you are walking along unfamiliar streets;
not even the water of the river
which flows under the stone arch of the bridge
you know not the name of
— and there you are, standing
totally alone, in your own shadow
which slowly trickles out onto the asphalt
like a distant melody
from a flute that is out of tune.
a little bird notices you,
meets your gaze
with its pepper-coloured eyes,
before it disappears into the dawn.
He longed for
outside’s freedom, the child said,
when I opened the window
for the bird.
Where are the outsides
which makes our breasts
fill up with longing —
and the words
which make language
to something else, other than words.
About Some Colours
The snow on the mountain is white in winter.
The winter is white as snow on the mountain.
In spring on the mountain the snow is grey,
grey like the stone on the mountain in the summer.
In autumn, above the stone, the sky is blue.
In winter, the sky and the clouds are grey.
On the mountain in winter the stone is white,
on the stone in the mountain in spring
the cap is red.
Observe the ear, listen to the sound
in which the sun sinks
in the lake
Turn the night outside in,
feel the hairy coat’s darkness,
drink the smell of birch tree
over the silence of stones
The time it takes
for the stones
to learn reading —
is what your lips whisper
Two Red Berries
Behind autumn’s rusty pleasure
and the leaky old rowboat
that is hauled out of the river year after year,
a dog barking through the morning
— sound check before the elk hunt
there ahead, beyond the forest,
awaits that which is called future
you are on your way there, with two red berries
in your hand, one for yourself
and one for the world
you stand equipped against power
with shining stubborness of the heather,
you know that this won’t be sufficient
not even the four cardinal points are enough
but your arms reach a dream
where time is not rushing and where
all children can speak all the world’s languages:
every tongue enjoys a freedom, which does not exist
you who don’t listen to the incomprehensible
will never understand anything
we are not only what we are
— we become what we see
two red berries; there you stand
on the treshold of the world, you
walk on air and wind is blowing in your hair
What shall we say about the light?
The cat sees in the dark
without a flashlight, the glow-worm
can be seen, without neon
We climb out of the darkness into the light
as in the beautiful old song
That Nordic light
that we wander in and out of,
that soft gloomy darkness
provided by mossy pine forests,
those glimmering glades
among groves of birches — all this
with its light and darkness
has coloured our senses
What more can we say about the light
that grows from within, that is created,
that is believed?
And deep down in the darkness
at the bottom of a glacial lake
a Triglopsis Quadricornis noses around
searching for its utopia
among stones and silt
In the rain’s high pine
a blackbird is perched,
charges by the batteries of July light
while we others, we
decenders of shoe-wearing creatures
wander pine forest paths
back and forth
while we wonder:
What should we say about the light?
An open question, the light
stands free, like a glistening
out in the newly harvested
fields of oats
Get ready for a new day
think about love a moment,
know thar the road ends
at the same place as it once began
Stand still waiting for the rain,
look for a circle in the grass
where we once stood
cup your hand overthat spot
(as for protection),
think about love, know
that rain will soon start to fall;
A new day
… just like a week ago
Lucky to have the weather
you can always hang your alphabet on the weather
and the mail you’re waiting for,
the postman also arrived a week ago
The cat is like me
a week older,
but the light gets lighter,
spring is up ahead
it’s just a couple of pine trees in the way
and a whooper swan flying upside down
But then spring arrives
like a letter in the mailbox,
like a whooper swan, right side-up