Mark Strand


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

And yet, in a culture like ours, which is given to material comforts, and addicted to forms of entertainment that offer immediate gratification, it is surprising that so much poetry is written.

I certainly can't speak for all cultures or all societies, but it's clear that in America, poetry serves a very marginal purpose. It's not part of the cultural mainstream.

It hardly seems worthwhile to point out the shortsightedness of those practitioners who would have us believe that the form of the poem is merely its shape.

Poetry is something that happens in universities, in creative writing programs or in English departments.

Then a man turned and said to me: Although I love the past, the dark of it, the weight of it teaching us nothing, the loss of it, the all of it asking for nothing, I will love the twenty-first century more...

We?re only here for a short while. And I think it?s such a lucky accident, having been born, that we?re almost obliged to pay attention. In some ways, this is getting far afield. I mean, we are ? as far as we know ? the only part of the universe that?s self-conscious. We could even be the universe?s form of consciousness. We might have come along so that the universe could look at itself. I don?t know that, but we?re made of the same stuff that stars are made of, or that floats around in space. But we?re combined in such a way that we can describe what it?s like to be alive, to be witnesses. Most of our experience is that of being a witness. We see and hear and smell other things. I think being alive is responding.

Anywhere Could Be Somewhere: I might have come from the high country, or maybe the low country, I don?t recall which. I might have come from the city, but what city in what country is beyond me. I might have come from the outskirts of a city from which others have come or maybe a city from which only I have come. Who?s to know? Who?s to decide if it rained or the sun was out? Who?s to remember? They say things are happening at the border, but nobody knows which border. They talk of a hotel there, where it doesn?t matter if you forgot your suitcase, another will be waiting, big enough, and just for you.

I don't really think it will make much difference to me when I'm dead whether I'm read or not? just as whether I'm dead or not won't mean much to me when I'm dead.

It's very hard to write humor.

Poetry is, first and last, language - the rest is filler.

There is no end to what we can learn. The book out there tells us as much, and was never written with us in mind.

Well, poetry?at least lyric poetry?tries to lead us to relocate ourselves in the self. But everything we want to do these days is an escape from self. People don?t want to sit home and think. They want to sit home and watch television. Or they want to go out and have fun. And having fun is not usually meditative. It doesn?t have anything to do with reassessing one?s experience and finding out who one is or who the other guy is. It has to do with burning energy. When you go to the movies, you?re overcome with special effects and monstrous goings-on. Things unfold with a rapidity that?s thrilling. You?re not given a second to contemplate the previous scene, to meditate on something that?s just happened?something else takes its place.

Breath: When you see them tell them I am still here, that I stand on one leg while the other one dreams, that this is the only way, that the lies I tell them are different from the lies I tell myself, that by being both here and beyond I am becoming a horizon, that as the sun rises and sets I know my place, that breath is what saves me, that even the forced syllables of decline are breath, that if the body is a coffin it is also a closet of breath, that breath is a mirror clouded by words, that breath is all that survives the cry for help as it enters the stranger's ear and stays long after the world is gone, that breath is the beginning again, that from it all resistance falls away, as meaning falls away from life, or darkness fall from light, that breath is what I give them when I send my love.

I feel that anything is possible in a poem.

Keeping Things Whole: 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.

She stood beside me for years, or was it a moment? I cannot remember. Maybe I loved her, maybe I didn't. There was a house, and then no house. There were trees, but none remain. When no one remembers, what is there? You, whose moments are gone, who drift like smoke in the afterlife, tell me something, tell me anything.

There is no happiness like mine. I have been eating poetry.

What I had not realized then, but now know only too well, is that sparks carry within them the wish to be relieved of the burden of brightness. And that is why I no longer write, and why the dark is is my freedom and my happiness.

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

I grow into my death. My life is small and getting smaller. The world is green. Nothing is all.

Life makes writing poetry necessary to prove I really was paying attention.

Sometimes he did not know if he slept or just thought about sleep.

There's a certain point, when you're writing autobiographical stuff, where you don't want to misrepresent yourself. It would be dishonest.

What we desire, more than a season or weather, is the comfort of being strangers, at least to ourselves.

Coming To This: We have done what we wanted. We have discarded dreams, preferring the heavy industry of each other, and we have welcomed grief and called ruin the impossible habit to break. And now we are here. The dinner is ready and we cannot eat. The meat sits in the white lake of its dish. The wine waits. Coming to this has its rewards: nothing is promised, nothing is taken away. We have no heart or saving grace, no place to go, no reason to remain.

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