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Mark Strand is a poet, essayist, and translator who was born in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada on April 11, 1934. His early years were spent in North America, while much of his teenage years were spent in South and Central America. He earned his B.A. from Antioch College in 1957. He then studied painting under Josef Albers at Yale University where he earned a B.F.A in 1959. On a Fulbright Scholarship, Strand studied nineteenth-century Italian poetry in Italy during 1960-1961. He attend the Iowa Writers' Workshop the following year and earned an Master of Fine Arts in 1962. In 1965 he spent a year in Brazil as a Fulbright Lecturer. In 1981, Strand was elected a member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters. He served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress during the 1990-1991 term. Strand has received numerous awards including a MacArthur Fellowship in 1987 and the Pulitzer Prize in 1999 for A Blizzard of One. Strand has taught at many universities and published eleven books of poetry, in addition to translations from the poetry of Rafael Alberti and Carlos Drummond de Andrade, among others. He left his position as Andrew MacLeish Distinguished Service Professor of Social Thought at the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago in 2005, and currently teaches at Columbia University.


Four Poems:

Elegy 1969
                        (after Carlos Drummond de Andrade)

You slave away into your old age
and nothing you do adds up to much.
Day after day you go through the same motions,
you shiver in bed, you get hungry, you want a woman.

Heroes standing for lives of sacrifice and obedience
fill the parks through which you walk.
At night in the fog they open their bronze umbrellas
or else withdraw to the empty lobbies of movie houses.

You love the night for its power of annihilating,
but while you sleep, your problems will not let you die.
Waking only proves the existence of The Great Machine
and the hard light falls on your shoulders.

You walk among the dead and talk
about times to come and matters of the spirit.
Literature wasted your best hours of love-making.
Weekends were lost, cleaning your apartment.

You are quick to confess your failure and to postpone
collective joy to the next century.  You accept
rain, war, unemployment and the unjust distribution of wealth
because you can’t, all by yourself, blow up Manhattan Island.

[from Selected Poems (1990)]


For Her

Let it be anywhere
on any night you wish,
in your room that is empty and dark

or down the street
or at those dim frontiers
you barely see, barely dream of.

You will not feel desire,
nothing will warn you,
no sudden wind, no stillness of air.

She will appear,
looking like someone you knew:
the friend who wasted her life,

the girl who sat under the palm tree.
Her bracelets will glitter,
becoming the lights

of a village you turned from years ago.

[from Selected Poems (1990)]


Shooting Whales
                                    for Judith and Leon Major

When the shoals of plankton
swarmed into St. Margaret’s Bay,
turning the beaches pink,
we saw from our place on the hill
the sperm whales feeding,
fouling the nets
in their play,
and breaching clean
so the humps of their backs
rose over the wide sea meadows.

Day after day
we waited inside
for the rotting plankton to disappear.
The smell stilled even the wind,
and the oxen looked stunned,
pulling hay on the slope
of our hill.
But the plankton kept coming in
and the whales would not go.

That’s when the shooting began.
The fishermen got in their boats
and went after the whales,
and my father and uncle
and we children went, too.
The froth of our wake sank fast
in the wind shaken water.

The whales surfaced close by.
Their foreheads were huge,
the doors of their faces were closed.
Before sounding, they lifted
their flukes into the air
and brought them down hard.
They beat the sea into foam,
and the path that they made
shone after them.

Thought I did not see their eyes,
I imagined they were
like the eyes of mourning,
glazed with rheum,
watching us, sweeping along
under the darkening sheen of salt.

When we cut our engine and waited
for the whales to surface again,
the sun was setting,
turning the rock strewn barrens a gaudy salmon.
A cold wind flailed at our skin.
When finally the sun went down
and it seemed like the whales had gone,
my uncle, no longer afraid,
shot aimlessly into the sky.

Three miles out
in the rolling dark
under the moon’s astonished eyes,
our engine would not start
and we headed home in the dinghy.
And my father, hunched over the oars,
brought us in.  I watched him,
rapt in his effort, rowing against the tide,
his blond hair glistening with salt.
I saw the slick spillage of moonlight
being blown over his shoulders,
and the sea and spindrift
suddenly silver.

He did not speak the entire way.
At midnight
when I went to bed,
I imagined the whales
moving beneath me,
sliding over the weed-covered hills of the deep;
they knew where I was;
they were luring me
downward and downward
into the murmurous
waters of sleep.

[from Selected Poems (1990)]


A Piece of the Storm

                                                            (for Sharon Horvath)

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.”

[from Blizzard of One (1998)]





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    [Our biography was extracted and edited from wikipedia.org]      
Last Updated: Tue, June 27, 2006
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