Characterized by powerful imagery, Transtromer's poems are often built around his own experiences and infused with his love of music and nature. His later poems are darker, probing existential questions of life, death and disease.
Transtromer is considered a master of metaphor, weaving powerful images into his poems without much embellishment. The award citation noted that his collections "are characterized by economy."
"Waking up is a parachute jump from dreams. Free of the suffocating turbulence the traveler sinks toward the green zone of morning," reads the prelude to "The Great Enigma," his last collection, released in Swedish in 2004 and two years later in English.
"Things flare up. From the viewpoint of the quivering lark he is aware of the huge root systems of the trees, their swaying underground lamps," Transtromer wrote. "But aboveground there's greenery — a tropical flood of it — with lifted arms, listening to the beat of an invisible pump."
A psychologist and avid amateur pianist, 80, suffered a stroke in 1990 that left him half-paralyzed and largely unable to speak, but he continued to write, publishing "The Sorrow Gondola" in 1996 and the "The Great Enigma." He has since retired from writing.