Siv Arb was a poet, a literary critic, a translator, and an editor. She was also one of the founders of Författarcentrum (Writers’ Centre) in 1967 and one of the founders of Författarförlaget (authors’ publishing house), along with the annual Poetry day in Stockholm.
Siv Arb was born in Gothenburg in 1931. Her father died the week before she was born and was buried on the day of her birth. She grew up in various homes, sometimes with relatives, and sometimes in children’s homes or foster homes. She started studying at Sigtuna adult education college in 1950 and gained her school-leaving certificate there in 1955. She married Stig Arb, an editor of cultural news, in 1956, and their marriage lasted for 20 years. She sat her Bachelor’s degree in Stockholm in 1962. From 1962 to 1964 she was the responsible publisher for the literary journal Rondo. She also worked as a literary critic for Bonniers Litterära Magasin and for Aftonbladet during the years 1960-1968, and later for Expressen from 1977 to 1978.
Siv Arb began her career as a poet in 1959 when her first collection of poems, entitled Växt mot vinden, was published. Her output comprises several more collections, such as Kollisioner, 1967, Burspråk, 1971, Under bara himlen, 1978, and Minnets knivar, 2001. She often used her poems to work through feelings of anxiety and alienation, as well as the separation from and the loss of her parents. Her 1975 collection entitled Dikter i mörker och ljus recounts her journey through a difficult but, according to her, necessary depression. Her literary style can be described as straightforward, but without the usual motifs which tend to be connected with so-called kitchen sink realism.
Siv Arb also worked as a translator. She translated Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, and Doris Lessing, thereby bringing these writers to Swedish audiences. Furthermore, she was an artist and in 1994 she held an exhibition at the National Gallery in Gamla stan in Stockholm. Her book, Växelbruk, 1977, is a mix of poetry and translations, reviews, diary entries, and pictures. Several of her other works include images, mainly in collage format. In 1960 she released a book on Harriet Löwenhjelm, called Lek, liv och längtan: studier i Harriet Löwenhjelms liv och författarskap baserade på hennes läsning av Sören Kierkegaard. There was a reason why Siv Arb referred to herself as a “literary all-rounder”.
Siv Arb, like many other Swedish poets, became strongly politicised during the 1960s. She was a socialist, a feminist, and campaigned against nuclear power. During the 1970s she somewhat counterbalanced the previous decade’s hard demands for political engagement. She described those demands as “terror” and believed that art should not be forced to submit to those kinds of rules.
Siv Arb died in Stockholm in 2015, aged 83.