On Håkan Sandell’s Dog Star Notations

Dog Star Notations
By Håkan Sandell, Translated by Bill Coyle
Carcanet Press Limited
2016, 104 pages, $19.99

Though currently living in Norway, Håkan Sandell (b. 1962-) is one of Sweden’s preeminent poets. He was born in the southern province of Scania, a region with close ties to Continental Europe, a connection detectable in his poetry’s familiarity with a wide range of Western culture. He is a leading proponent of the return to metrical forms in Swedish poetry, and the music of his verse is what first struck translator Bill Coyle, himself a poet, claiming that it didn’t just speak to him, but “sang” to him. Coyle explains that much of contemporary Swedish poetry after Tomas Tranströmer, the Nobel Prize winning poet, “left him cold”, but that Sandell’s distinctive, musical verse seems to him to be the work of “one of the most gifted poets writing in Swedish today.”