Anna Rydstedt was an author and a lyrical poet. She belonged to the so-called Lundaskolan.
Anna Rydstedt was born in 1928. She was the eldest daughter of Elin and Ivar Rydstedt, farmers in Ventlinge on southern Öland. Her younger sister Ruth was born soon after her, but their parents divorced in 1930 and the girls were brought up by their mother, who took care of them and their farm on her own. In Anna Rydstedt’s world a woman could achieve anything, even becoming a priest. When Anna Rydstedt went to Lund in 1946 in order to attend the Latin programme at Spyken, a private high school, she was shocked to encounter a different reality. In the spring of 1947 she was hospitalised with depression and she herself declared in a letter to a classmate that it was the theologians’ demands for “absolute ‘submission’ to the letter and dogma which […] contributed to destroying the will to live”.
In the spring of 1950 Anna Rydstedt gained her school-leaving certificate and that autumn she began to study at Lund University. She joined the literary student club, a community which encouraged its members’ idiosyncrasies and particularities.
The literary student club, which had been established in 1945, has subsequently become known as Lundaskolan. The name primarily refers to the generation which included Anna Rydstedt, Majken Johansson, Ingemar Gustafon (later Leckius) and Göran Printz-Påhlson, those active members who published in the VOX annual in the early 1950s. Their common denominator was their self-mockery and linguistically critical stance. At the same time they formed a group of original individuals.
Anna Rydstedt retained a completely unique tone and clear voice throughout her poetical production, totalling eight original poetry collections. There is an intractable strength in her courage to be vulnerable and naked which nevertheless allows her to retain her integrity. Her poetic artistry is clear and precise, and continually burns with existentialism. It is often grounded in concrete, everyday and sensuous experiences of the world and reality. It is always physical – even the soul is physically anchored and tied to the earth.
But this does not render her poetry simple – to the contrary it opens a multitude of possible meanings. It is existential not only in its themes. Even the artistic act of writing is a concrete existential and ethical activity, a method of dealing with life and of interacting with fellow humans, a way “of being Anna in the world”, a line which ends her most well-known poem “Det enda”, from her third collection Min punkt, 1960.
Anna Rydstedt made her debut with Bannlyst prästinna, 1953. It is a solemn protest against the fact that she could not become a priest, with resemblance to the work of Edith Södergran. It was followed by Lökvår, 1957, which can be seen to be the opposite of the her debut work, with more dampened tones and themes set at the level of grass blades and snails. However, this collection is just another way of dealing with the same existential anxiety: “Min rädsla är mitt enda barn” (my fear is my only child), as conveyed in the poem “Dotter Rädsla”.
Her collection entitled Min punkt, 1960, highlights the problem and the necessity of both the point (existence) and the radius (ethics, the Other). Her fourth collection of poems, Presensbarn, 1964, is, amongst other things, a sort of farewell to the almost twenty years that Anna Rydstedt had spent living in the Öresund region. Having completed her university studies in 1955 she had then applied to be a teacher at adult education colleges, initially in Hillerød in Denmark and subsequently in Eslöv, all the while retaining her residence at Byggmästaregatan in Lund, and thus maintaining her connection to both Lund university and the literary student club. It was not until 1964 that she moved north and ended up in Stockholm, where she met Gustaf Dannstedt at Birkagården public college in 1966. They married the following year.
When Anna Rydstedt’s mother died in 1965, aged only 59, Anna took over the farm in Ventlinge, and it subsequently became her summer residence. Anna was inspired to write “Mamma i världen” after her mother died, a series of poems which portray the moment of death in all its concrete presence and intractability. This series closed the collection entitled Jag var ett barn, a title which captures the writer’s main theme: the child. The world is often viewed through a child’s eyes but even more frequently the child embodies the inner, true and now older child, which needs to be carried or simply born, as she wrote in “Soldikt 1982” in the collection called Genom nålsögat, 1989.
Between Jag var ett barn and Genom nålsögat Anna Rydstedt released her most light-hearted collection entitled Dess kropp av verklighet, 1976. In so far as darkness still is apparent and is represented, it is a divided darkness, in the form of global and environmental political injustices, which demand social activism. This collection was followed by a long silence, which lasted a full 13 years. It was finally broken by a multifaceted depiction of crisis – with elements of humour which only serve to emphasise the gravity rather than alleviating it: “Ånga min ångest” (steaming my anxiety) as it says in “Solen lyser över ens ångest” in Genom nålsögat.
Anna Rydstedt’s last and posthumously published collection called Kore, 1994, dresses up the mother-daughter relationship in different myths. It focuses on fertility, growth, and the seasons through the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone. Persephone was known as Kore before being dragged into the realm of death by Hades/Pluto, the god of death, who wanted her to be his queen. Demeter, with the help of Zeus, is able to achieve a compromise wherein Kore can return above ground during the summer months. Kore thus becomes a female version of Christ: in the last poem she receives the newly deceased in the realm of death as though she were their wet-nurse. Although she cannot suckle them in a maternal way she can comfort them with “dödsrikets mjölk” (death’s milk) as it says in “Denna främmande storm”.
Anna Rydstedt died in 1994. She is buried at Ventlinge cemetery.