Mark Strand is the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, author of Blizzard of One and other books. Wikipedia says: “He was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1990. Since 2005, he has been a professor of English at Columbia University.” He has just let me know he likes Keep This Quiet! What a fantastic bit of news.
Mark Strand is also a world traveler. I met him once, in a Leuven, Belgium / Sibiu, Romania poetry festival in 1994. No contact since. Yet I found his e-mail address and asked if he would take a look at Keep This Quiet! He said he’d “take a look.” And off into the mail it went. The book caught up with him as he was arriving in New York from Spain. And he plunged right in!!
The publisher of Keep This Quiet! – by the way – is an author/professor in Sibiu, in the “Lucian Blaga” University – a writer himself – and that’s how I first got published at all, in his press. Long story, that taught me a lot about Eastern Europe.
Anyway, Mark Strand was an invited poet at the Festival, in 1993, and I remember he told the audience that once he didn’t – I think it was “write” poetry – for ten years. He took a break. That must have been leading up to The Continuous Life, which was preceded by 10 years of silence in poetry.
He also described how once he took a very long poem of his that seemed quite good but he didn’t like the length. So he cut out every other line and it exists like that today. At least, that’s how I remember he told it to the audience.
All that being said, he took out the time to write me his reaction to my memoir, which he would blurb except that he doesn’t do any blurbs at all, not since ten years ago when he was inundated. Nevertheless, I know that he found it “addictive” and “a delight.”
Mark studied painting at Yale and has taught at Princeton, Johns Hopkins, etc., etc, won the MacArthur Fellowship and (among others) the Wallace Stevens Award. His first published poetry book was Sleeping with One Eye Open.
Again from Wikipedia: “Many of Strand’s poems are nostalgiac in tone, evoking the bays, fields, boats, and pines of his childhood on Prince Edward Island. Strand has been compared to Robert Bly in his use of surrealism, though he attributes the surreal elements in his poems to an admiration of the works of Max Ernst, Giorgio de Chirico, and Rene Magritte. Strand’s poems use plain and concrete language, usually without rhyme or meter. In a 1971 interview, Strand said, ‘I feel very much a part of a new international style that has a lot to do with plainness of diction, a certain reliance on surrealist techniques, and a strong narrative element.'” And with all that, he’s taking time to read KTQ! – cover to cover – and write back that he enjoys it – with a few choice adjectives – and then on to Spain again and, hopefully, more writing.
“No wonder – since things come into view then drop from sight –
We clear a space for ourselves. a stillness where nothing
Is blurred: a common palm, an oasis in which to rest, to sit”
From “A Suite of Appearances” in Blizzard of One.
Read the rest of it. It’s beautiful. But I’d better not infringe on the copyright.