Friday, January 2, 2009

I Saw Mark Strand Read When I Was 19. Later Came His Pulitzer.

What To Think Of

Think of the jungle,The green stream rising.
It is yours.You are the prince of Paraguay.
Your minions kneel
Deep in the shade of giant leaves
While you drive by
Benevolent as gold. They kiss the air
That moments before
Swept over your skin,
And rise only after you’ve passed.
Think of yourself, almost a god,
Your hair on fire,
The bellows of your heart pumping.
Think of the bats
Rushing out of their caves
Like a dark wind to greet you;
Of the vast nocturnal cities
Of lightning bugs
Floating down
From Minas Gerais;
Of the coral snakes;
Of the crimson birds
With emerald beaks;
Of the tons and tons of morpho butterflies
Filling the air
Like the cold confetti of paradise

—Mark Strand


Men are running across a field,
pens fall from their pockets.
People out walking will pick them up.
It is one of the ways letters are written.
How things fall to others!
The self no longer belonging to me, but asleep
in a stranger’s shadow, now clothing
the stranger, now leading him off.
It is noon as I write to you.
Someone’s life has come into my hands.
The sun whitens the buildings.
It is all I have. I give it all to you. Yours,

--Mark Strand


The professors of English have taken their gowns
to the laundry, have taken themselves to the fields.
Dreams of motion circle the Persian rug in a room you were in.
On the beach the sadness of gramophones
deepens the ocean’s folding and falling.
It is yesterday. It is still yesterday.

– Mark Strand


Jerri said...

Wow. Just wow.

I went to an open mike poetry reading on New Year's Day. Most of the poetry was completely dreadful, but the writers read with complete confidence in themselves as poets.

Poetry like this is medicine for the soul, but reading it leaves me in a sort of despair that I'll never write a line like "Dreams of motion circle the Persian rug in a room you were in."

The trick to being a poet is to believe you are. What the hell is the trick to playing syllables like musical instruments?

So good.


i think you're right about confidence. but it's all so subjective. there are people who dislike mark strand, who think free verse is for pinhead zombies on trikes. but not me. oh, not me.

poetry is a grace. not everyone believes in it. it's become fashionable to hate poetry and even books. i can't be responsible for this. i love me some mark strand and edna st vincent millay and larkin and arvio and olds and plath and sexton and yeats and hugo and williams and frost and rich and levertov and levine and stevens and ...well. you know. it's all there. treasure.

George said...

The more fashionable it is to hate poetry, the more I am going to love it, insist upon it, read it, write it. That's a promise.

Jerri said...

Who hates books? Let me at 'em. I'll show 'em a thing or two.

Hate books. Meh. That'd be like air. Or light.

kate said...

I just read split. The publicity director at Penguin Uk gave it to me and I loved it. Read it over the weekend. I have a novel coming out with penguin in the UK called the Seven Year Itch in May! x Kate

Sean said...

I'm reading the book too. I bought three copies, in hardback, and started a book workshop. I see how you could read it in a weekend, but part of reading it has to be about experiencing the emotion, I suppose it's funny too, I just don't understand why you would want to read this book in a weekend. I wonder if it is a book you are going to re-read? It disappears so quickly, doesn't it? A book like this clearly has no 'ending', it could go on for ever. Everything could be undone by now. So I am going to read a page a week. With some weeks off, in case book workshoppers can't meet. We might have to go to Hawaii or Prudhoe Bay. I'm not sure poetry is medicine for the soul. What if there is nothing wrong with your soul, or if you don't believe in one. Or is it like Yoga, would we need it if we didn't have chairs? No, at least not for our hamstrings. Oops, I have to go.

kate said...

To Sean

The reason I read it over a weekend, is because it is a very good read and I'm a fast reader if I'm into a book. Why I may ask would you only read a page a week? That seems weird.


sean and kate

deepest thanks! kate, make sure anna ridle a penguin sends me your book.

sean, you are a wonder, thank you. just the sweetest note, ever. and no one can make you read poetry, just as no one can make me eat liver. people who dont like liver never will, and thats that. it is all very subjective.


hi ho, george! love you you bad ass man in the goodwill leather

Sean said...

No, I was joking about a page a day. But this book is a new reading experience for me and I find myself left curious by the reaction I have to it. I don't want to read it hastily, that is I stop myself and I don't know why. I am new to this genre, having finished ear, pray and love last week (which I did not read slowly), so I am feeling out my ideas.

I am not a fast reader, well I can be - I read Fountainhead in two days because I hated it enough. I am trying to understand something and I can't do it reading quickly. With the eat and pray book I read the beginning at a slower pace than the ending and that's because the latter part lacks the same emotion. Her ashram and her discovering she really worships romance/marriage bit was unexceptional in that you've heard it as humorous and emotional from your friends. So with Split... I don't know, we all like the book more than the other one (though I was hoping the women in reading group would like it more than me), but what am I trying to understand? Oh, right. I am trying to understand why one would read such a book, and then why they would only live with it for such a short while.

But this is a comment section for poems. I started a class today (at UA - Anchorage): poetry. The instructor asked if there was anyone in the class who hated poetry and someone said they hated free verse. And later he said that dirt and soil were essentially the same word in translation (disagreeing with the instructor). It made me want to punch him in the head (he had a bad haircut and had worn an orange polo shirt under an orange jacket, and not a warm jacket). I think of free verse (now that i now that is what anne sexton wrote) and confessional poetry (which i guess is also what she wrote, though there might be a better name) and the divorce memoir. They come together in my mind. Split seems to work for me in the same way. I know the literary objections to Anne Sexton y Sylvia Plath, I don't know the literary objections to Split, but what the three all seem to have is guts (not as a synonym of fearlessness). I've read some new fiction (after not reading anything post wwII, western lit, for ages - though I seem to reread The Sheltering Sky every summer), Everything is Illuminated, Keith Gressen's book, Miranda July, Eggers fellow, and others, they all lack it. As much as I ended up not liking 2/3s of eat pray love at least it had some guts, which new fiction can't seem to achieve.

I think I get part of it. The romantic relationship is the last thing we all share. It is our religion, there is no one who doesn't believe in it to some degree. Doesn't it cross gender, religion, geography and more? The end of the romantic relationship and our reaction to it is our shareable religious experience. More of this should be painted. Paintings should be concerned with those moments. I know many who become brilliant smokers and drinkers because of the 'failing' (not my preferred word). The last supper. There is a painting, the restaurant scene in the Split book (was it a birthday celebration? mother's day!) paint that you fucker (the MFA student). Ah, well I should be redirected to the Split page.


sean! you're so kind and passionate, i hope you won't be crushed by the academia hammer. isn't it funny: i still remember the emotional quotient of classes about poetry and literature -- it could either be very heated, or very dull. i prefer the former.

Jerri said...

Came looking for the Owen Meany discussion, to which I could not contribute since I haven't read the book. But more than anything, I came to let you know you're in my thoughts and prayers.

A candle burns for you on my altar. Keep breathing. Keep believing.


SEAN: "The end of the romantic relationship and our reaction to it is our shareable religious experience. More of this should be painted"

if you stidy the paintingso ffrida kahlo, you will see much of what you describe. it's part of what i love and respect about kahlo. she never flinched from extreme pain, she incorporated it into her work, she was willing and educated and learned and she was fearless at portraying anything. look at Kahlo's elaborate and brilliant "Moses" painting in which she includes Hitler as a shaper of the twentieth century. that takes guts. that is genius. she didn;t flinch from what he was, a genocidal monster. she used her pain to fuel her art, she incorporated it as a way to get to the crux of human suffering, love, and experience.