April 19, 2013

NPM 2013 - S is for Strand

Given all that is happening in Boston today, maybe not many (at least here in the US) are in the mood for poetry. But National Poetry Month has to go on...

"If absence and loss are inescapable conditions of life, the poem …is an act of recovery. It synthesizes, for all its meagreness, what is with what is no longer; it conjures up a life that persists by denial, gathering strength from its hopelessness, and exists, finally and positively, as an emblem of survival." - Mark Strand  
For today, I debated between Wallace Stevens and Mark Strand and while I've read both of their work quite a bit over the last five years, I decided to go with Mark Strand since his poems have appealed to me at an emotional level more than Stevens's poems. I'll probably keep reading Wallace Stevens poems all my life (bought his Collected Poems at a used book store last year) but for today, Strand it is.

Here are a few of the many poems by Mark Strand that I have loved and saved away for later reading and re-reading. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.


The Night, the Porch 
by Mark Strand
To stare at nothing is to learn by heart
What all of us will be swept into, and baring oneself
To the wind is feeling the ungraspable somewhere close by.
Trees can sway or be still. Day or night can be what they wish.
What we desire, more than a season or weather, is the comfort
Of being strangers, at least to ourselves. This is the crux
Of the matter. Even now we seem to be waiting for something
Whose appearance would be its vanishing—the sound, say,
Of a few leaves falling, or just one leaf, or less.
There is no end to what we can learn. The book out there
Tells as much, and was never written with us in mind.

by Mark Strand
Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows.
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrow’s dust flares into breath.

A Piece of the Storm
by Mark Strand

    From the shadow of domes in the city of domes,
    A snowflake, a blizzard of one, weightless, entered your room
    And made its way to the arm of the chair where you, looking up
    From your book, saw it the moment it landed.
    That’s all There was to it. No more than a solemn waking
    To brevity, to the lifting and falling away of attention, swiftly,
    A time between times, a flowerless funeral. No more than that
    Except for the feeling that this piece of the storm,
    Which turned into nothing before your eyes, would come back,
    That someone years hence, sitting as you are now, might say:
    “It’s time. The air is ready. The sky has an opening.


Keeping Things Whole
by Mark Strand

In a field

I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk

I part the air
and always
the air moves in  
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.

We all have reasons

for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.
by Mark Strand

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

The librarian does not believe what she sees.

Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.

The poems are gone.

The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

Their eyeballs roll,

their blond legs burn like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

She does not understand.

When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
she screams.

I am a new man,

I snarl at her and bark,
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

I could go on and on as I love so many of his poems but I have to stop at my self-set maximum of 5 poems. I recommend you get some of his books on poetry to savor (and eat) his poetry - I especially love The Continuous Life and Dark Harbor but all his books of poems are great and so you could just start with  New Selected Poems (2009) or  Selected Poems (1990), which I found to be little easier to find at public libraries than the former two I mentioned here.

I'll leave you with this review from 1998 of another book I highly recommend - his Pulitzer Prize winning book, A Blizzard of One:
 "Mark Strand confronts the infinite, which sometimes returns his gaze."

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