Saturday, January 26, 2008

Mark Strand - New Selected Poems

Untitled, Mark Strand

Mark Strand’s New Selected Poems is out. Over the years his work has been about as important to me as anyone’s.

A few thoughts:

1. I don’t like the cover art much. I wish he would have used some of his own art. Something like the untitled piece above. Sunsets on the covers of selected poems, well, that’s a bit too much for my taste.

2. He’s a rather colorful person, isn't he? It seems everyone who has met him has a “Mark Strand” story. They are always memorable. Someday it would be fun to collect them into an anecdotal biography. Now THAT is an idea that would sell.

3. With our constant attention to first books and young writers, it’s important we not forget the value of these poems. Such as this one, from HIS first book, from 1964.

The Whole Story

—I’d rather you didn’t feel it necessary to tell him, “That’s a fire. And what’s more, we can’t do anything about it, because we’re on this train, see?”

How it should happen this way
I am not sure, but you
Are sitting next to me,
Minding your own business
When all of a sudden I see
A fire out the window.

I nudge you and say,
“That’s a fire. And what’s more,
We can’t do anything about it,
Because we’re on this train, see?”
You give me an odd look
As though I had said too much.

But for all you know I may
Have a passion for fires,
And travel by train to keep
From having to put them out.
It may be that trains
Can kindle a love of fire.

I might even suspect
That you are a fireman
In disguise. And then again
I might be wrong. Maybe
You are the one
Who loves a good fire. Who knows?

Perhaps you are elsewhere,
Deciding that with no place
To go you should not
Take a train. And I,
Seeing my own face in the window,
May have lied about the fire.


· Footage of Strand reading poems at the Erotikon Symposium, University of Chicago
· "Poetry in the World," essay by Mark Strand
· Modern American Poetry Web site biographical page on Mark Strand
· Strand's Academy Of American Poets page


At 1/27/2008 11:22 AM, Blogger C. Dale said...

I have always loved that poem. So odd. So quirky. Thanks for reminding me of it.

At 1/27/2008 11:40 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

It's one of my favorites as well. See you Thursday!

At 3/22/2009 3:48 PM, Anonymous Angela said...

I've been studying Mark Strand for an English project, but I've mostly covered his most recent works like Blizzard of One and Man and Camel, but I really like this poem. It has a surreal mysterious tone to it and I always love the odd thought provoking conversations he incorporates into his poetry. It's cool to see the difference between his earlier work and his later work, but they are both definitely characterized by his unique voice.

At 1/31/2011 7:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great poem. What does the quote at the beginning refer to?

At 2/01/2011 6:39 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I've no idea. I always just thought it belonged to the poem. It always made me think of the movie "Strangers on a Train" though? But that's totally a guess.


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