Mark Strand

  • Nov. 14th, 2013 at 12:37 AM
beth_shulman: (stock: open book rose)
No Words Can Describe It

How those fires burned that are no longer, how the weather worsened, how the shadow of the seagull vanished without a trace. Was it the end of a season, the end of a life? Was it so long ago it seems it might never have been? What is it in us that lives in the past and longs for the future, or lives in the future and longs for the past? And what does it matter when light enters the room where a child sleeps and the waking mother, opening her eyes, wishes more than anything to be unwakened by what she cannot name?

Mark Strand

  • May. 28th, 2013 at 7:36 PM
beth_shulman: (stock: open book rose)
You don’t read poetry for the kind of truth that passes for truth in the workaday world. You don’t read a poem to find out how you get to Twenty-fourth Street. 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.

But there is another type of poetry, in which the poet provides the reader with a surrogate world through which he reads this world. Wallace Stevens was the twentieth-century master of this. There’s no other poetry that sounds like a Wallace Stevens poem. But then, there’s nothing that sounds like a Frost poem, either. Or a Hardy poem. These people have created worlds of their own. Their language is so forceful and identifiable that you read them not to verify the meaning or truthfulness of your own experience of the world, but simply because you want to saturate yourself with their particular voices...

I think what happens at certain points in my poems is that language takes over, and I follow it. It just sounds right. And I trust the implication of what I’m saying, even though I’m not absolutely sure what it is that I’m saying. I’m just willing to let it be. Because if I were absolutely sure of whatever it was that I said in my poems, if I were sure, and could verify it and check it out and feel, yes, I’ve said what I intended, I don’t think the poem would be smarter than I am. I think the poem would be, finally, a reducible item. It’s this “beyondness,” that depth that you reach in a poem, that keeps you returning to it. And you wonder, The poem seemed so natural at the beginning, how did you get where you ended up? What happened?

Mark Strand

  • Apr. 14th, 2013 at 6:56 PM
beth_shulman: (stock: open book rose)
...Sometimes poems aren’t literal representations of anything. Sometimes a poem just exists as something else in the universe that you haven’t encountered before. If you want a poem to say what it means, right away, clearly—and of course the poet who writes that kind of poem is usually talking about his or her own experiences—well, what happens when you read that kind of poem is that it puts you back in the world that you know. The poem makes that world seem a little more comfortable, because here is somebody else who has had an experience like yours.

But you see, these little anecdotes that we read in these poems and that we like to believe are true, are in fact fictions. They represent a reduction of the real world. There’s so much in our experience that we take for granted—we don’t need to read poems that help us to take those things even more for granted. People like John Ashbery or Stevens do just the opposite—they try to explode those reductions. There’s a desire in Ashbery, for example, to create perfect non-sequiturs, to continually take us off guard. He creates a world that is fractured. It doesn’t imitate reality.

But, looking at it from another point of view, you could say that it’s simply a world that is as fractured and as unpredictable as the world in which we move every day. So there’s an element of delight in these people who rearrange reality. We usually hang on to the predictability of our experiences to such an extent... and there’s nowhere else where one can escape that as thoroughly as one can in certain poets’ work. When I read poetry, I want to feel myself suddenly larger... in touch with—or at least close to—what I deem magical, astonishing. I want to experience a kind of wonderment. And when you report back to your own daily world after experiencing the strangeness of a world sort of recombined and reordered in the depths of a poet’s soul, the world looks fresher somehow. Your daily world has been taken out of context. It has the voice of the poet written all over it, for one thing, but it also seems suddenly more alive—not as routinely there.

Mark Strand

  • Jan. 16th, 2013 at 9:16 PM
beth_shulman: (Default)
...If I were absolutely sure of whatever it was that I said in my poems, if I were sure, and could verify it and check it out and feel, yes, I’ve said what I intended, I don’t think the poem would be smarter than I am. I think the poem would be, finally, a reducible item. It’s this “beyondness,” that depth that you reach in a poem, that keeps you returning to it. And you wonder, The poem seemed so natural at the beginning, how did you get where you ended up? What happened? ...I like that, I like it in other people’s poems when it happens. I like to be mystified. Because it’s really that place which is unreachable, or mysterious, at which the poem becomes ours, finally, becomes the possession of the reader... In the act of figuring it out, of pursuing meaning, the reader is absorbing the poem, even though there’s an absence in the poem... And eventually, it becomes essential that it exists in the poem, so that something beyond his understanding, or beyond his experience, or something that doesn’t quite match up with his experience, becomes more and more his. He comes into possession of a mystery, you know—which is something that we don’t allow ourselves in our lives... We feel we have to know what things mean, to be on top of this and that. I don’t think it’s human, to be that competent at life.

Mark Strand

  • Jul. 10th, 2011 at 3:54 PM
beth_shulman: (Default)
Each moment is a place you've never been.

Mark Strand

  • Dec. 21st, 2010 at 11:14 PM
beth_shulman: (calligraphy notebook)

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.

(Keeping Things Whole)

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