Aase Berg grew up in the suburb of Tensta outside of Stockholm. In the mid eighties, she was recruited into the radical group the Stockholm Surrealists, which she participated in for many years, and which in many ways shaped her aesthetics.
The influence of surrealism is evident in Berg’s first book, Hos Rådjur (With Deer), which was published by Bonnier in 1997. In these prose poems, Berg brings a surrealist convulsion to bear on Swedish landscapes of lakes and woods as well as imagery from girlhood: the book moves between ‘the water lily’s black vein’ in a pristine but creepy lake to ‘the guinea pig cave’ which is “swarming with guinea pigs” that "crawl on each other like spiders." Berg amplifies this saturating, visceral aesthetic in her second book, Mörk Materia (Dark Matter), published in 1999. This post-apocalyptic epic (based in part on a reimagining of Harry Martinsson’s 1959 book Aniara) transforms Europe into a grotesquerie that is both of the future and the present (invoking environmental disasters and the Balkan War).
In 2001, Berg moved in a new direction, paring down her poems and focusing on her experience of giving birth and raising children. Instead of the overpoweringly visual poetry of the first collection, her poems began to privilege sonic patterns, even as she began to focus more on the puns that had been present in the first two books. This resulted in the so-called ‘mommy trilogy’: Forsla fett (Transfer Fat), Uppland and Loss. The Swedish language itself seems to mutate – or ‘vibribrate’ – in these poems. Child-like figures such as the hare and the whale turn into ‘oval’ (unwhale, ovals) and ‘harpoon’ (hare-poon, harpoon), even as the books describe scary and disturbing aspects of motherhood.
Following the mommy trilogy, Berg’s work has become more explicitly political again. In Liknöjd fauna (Indifferent Fauna, 2011) she satirizes modern Sweden and neoliberal economics via, among other figures, a choir of bickering hens. Her most recent book, Hackers (2015) is a fiercely feminist book, invoking kidnapped girls and scorned women, but it also invokes a necropastoral vision of nature: ‘Toxoplasma gondii – / the parasite that makes women more beautiful and turns men / into morons.’
Over the past two decades, Berg has gone from a member of a radical, subversive underground group, to a writer of influential and widely written-about books published by the biggest Swedish press. Yet she has maintained a fierce poetic outlook, continually challenging and provoking not just a cultural status quo, but also the ‘black vein’ of her own sensibilities.
Poetry (in Swedish)
Hos Rådjur. Bonnier, Stockholm, 1997.
Mörk Materia, Bonnier, Stockholm, 1999.
Forsla fett. Bonnier, Stockholm, 2002.
Uppland. Bonnier, Stockholm, 2005.
Loss. Bonnier, Stockholm, 2007.
Liknöjd fauna. Bonnier, Stockholm, 2011.
Hackers. Bonnier, Stockholm, 2015.
Poems (in English)
Remainland: Selected Poems of Aase Berg. Action Books, Tuscaloosa, AL, 2005.
With Deer. Black Ocean, Boston, 2009.
Transfer fat. Ugly Duckling Presse, NYC, 2012.
Dark Matter. Black Ocean, Boston, 2013.
Hackers. Black Ocean, Boston, (forthcoming, 2017)
Criticism (in Swedish)
Uggla. Bonnier, Stockholm, 2009.