Mark Strand

Mark
Strand
1934
2014

Canadian-born American Poet, Essayist and Translator, Poet Laureate of the United States, Awarded Pulitzer Prize, MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship and Wallace Stevens Award

Author Quotes

A great many people seem to think writing poetry is worthwhile, even though it pays next to nothing and is not as widely read as it should be.

For some of us, the less said about the way we do things the better.

I tend to think of the expressive part of me as rather tedious - never curious or responsive, but blind and self-serving.

No voice comes from outer space, from the folds of dust and carpets of wind to tell us that this is the way it was meant to happen, that if only we knew how long the ruins would last we would never complain.

The End: Not every man knows what he shall sing at the end, watching the pier as the ship sails away, or what it will seem like when he's held by the sea's roar, motionless, there at the end, or what he shall hope for once it is clear that he'll never go back. When the time has passed to prune the rose or caress the cat, when the sunset torching the lawn and the full moon icing it down no longer appear, not every man knows what he'll discover instead. When the weight of the past leans against nothing, and the sky is no more than remembered light, and the stories of cirrus and cumulus come to a close, and all the birds are suspended in flight, not every man knows what is waiting for him, or what he shall sing when the ship he is on slips into darkness, there at the end.

Time slips by; our sorrows do not turn into poems, and what is invisible stays that way.

You Can Always Get There From Here: A traveler returned to the country from which he had started many years before. When he stepped from the boat, he noticed how different everything was. There were once many buildings, but now there were few and each of them needed repair. In the park where he played as a child, dust-filled shafts of sunlight struck the tawny leaves of trees and withered hedges. Empty trash bags littered the grass. The air was heavy. He sat on one of the benches and explained to the woman next to him that he?d been away a long time, then asked her what season had he come back to. She replied that it was the only one left, the one they all had agreed on.

A life is not sufficiently elevated for poetry, unless, of course, the life has been made into an art.

From the reader's view, a poem is more demanding than prose.

I think the best American poetry is the poetry that utilizes the resources of poetry rather than exploits the defects or triumphs of the poet's personality.

Nobody sees it happening, but the architecture of our time is becoming the architecture of the next time. And the dazzle of light upon the waters is as nothing beside the changes wrought therein, just as our waywardness means nothing against the steady pull of things over the edge. Nobody can stop the flow, but nobody can start it either. Time slips by; our sorrows do not turn into poems, and what is invisible stays that way. Desire has fled, leaving only a trace of perfume in its wake, and so many people we loved have gone, and no voice comes from outer space, from the folds of dust and carpets of wind to tell us that this is the way it was meant to happen, that if only we knew how long the ruins would last we would never complain.

The future is always beginning now.

Time tells me what I am. I change and I am the same. I empty myself of my life and my life remains.

You don?t read a poem to find the meaning of life. The opposite. I mean, you?d be foolish to. Now, some American poets present the reader with a slice of life, saying, I went to the store today, and I saw a man, and he looked at me, and I looked at him, and we both knew we were ? thieves. And aren?t we all thieves? You know, this is extracting from everyday experience a statement about life, or a moral.

A poem is a place where the conditions of beyondness and withinness are made palpable, where to imagine is to feel what it is to be. It allows us to have the life we are denied because we are too busy living. Even more paradoxically, poetry permits us to live in ourselves as if we were just out of reach of ourselves.

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.

I would say that American poetry has always been a poetry of personal testimony.

Nothing is the destiny of everyone, it is our commonness made dumb.

The Idea: For us, too, there was a wish to possess Something beyond the world we knew, beyond ourselves, Beyond our power to imagine, something nevertheless In which we might see ourselves; and this desire Came always in passing, in waning light, and in such cold That ice on the valley's lakes cracked and rolled, And blowing snow covered what earth we saw, And scenes from the past, when they surfaced again, Looked not as they had, but ghostly and white Among false curves and hidden erasures; And never once did we feel we were close Until the night wind said, "Why do this, Especially now? Go back to the place you belong;" And there appeared , with its windows glowing, small, In the distance, in the frozen reaches, a cabin; And we stood before it, amazed at its being there, And would have gone forward and opened the door, And stepped into the glow and warmed ourselves there, But that it was ours by not being ours, And should remain empty. That was the idea.

To avoid blowing a fuse, he has developed a variety of rituals to distract himself: playing a few hands of solitaire, taking the dog for a walk, running ?meaningless errands,? going to the kitchen to have a snack. Driving is an especially useful respite, because it forces him to concentrate on the road and thus relieves his mind from the burden of thought. Afterward, refreshed by the interval, he can return to work with a clearer mind.

You want to get a good look at yourself. You stand before a mirror, you take off your jacket, unbutton your shirt, open your belt, unzip your fly. The outer clothing falls from you. You take off your shoes and socks, baring your feet. You remove your underwear. At a loss, you examine the mirror. There you are. You are not there.

And at least in poetry you should feel free to lie. That is, not to lie, but to imagine what you want, to follow the direction of the poem.

How can I sing? Time tells me what I am. I change and I am the same. I empty myself of my life and my life remains.

If every head of state and every government official spent an hour a day reading poetry we'd live in a much more humane and decent world.

Once you start describing nothingness, you end up with somethingness.

Author Picture
First Name
Mark
Last Name
Strand
Birth Date
1934
Death Date
2014
Bio

Canadian-born American Poet, Essayist and Translator, Poet Laureate of the United States, Awarded Pulitzer Prize, MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship and Wallace Stevens Award