Mark Strand, whose spare, deceptively simple investigations of rootlessness, alienation and the ineffable strangeness of life made him one of America’s most hauntingly meditative poets, died on Saturday at his daughter’s home in Brooklyn. He was 80. Mr. Strand, who was named poet laureate of the United States in 1990 and awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1999 for his collection “Blizzard of One,” made an early impression with short, often surreal lyric poems that imparted an unsettling sense of personal dislocation — what the poet and critic Richard Howard called “the working of the divided self.”…“He is not a religious poet on the face of it, but he fits into a long tradition of meditation and contemplation,” said David Kirby…He makes you see how trivial the things of this world are, and how expansive the self is, once you unhook it from flat-screen TVs and iPhones.” Reading Mr. Strand, he said, “We learn what a big party solitude is.”…To critics who complained that his poems, with their emphasis on death, despair and dissolution, were too dark, he replied, “I find them evenly lit.”
He has too many favorite poems to share…so I have shared links to short excerpts, morsels, to enable you to feel the genius of this man.
- Luminism: “And though it was brief, and slight, and nothing / To have been held onto so long, I remember it…”
- Black Maps: “…A scar remembers the wound.”
- The Guardian: Why do I love what fades?”
- The Triumph of the Infinite: “All I could hear was my heart pumping and pumping.”
- The Coming of Light: “..Even this late it happens: the coming of love, the coming of light.”
- Dark Harbor: “…Sending up stars of salt, loud clouds of spume.”
- The Continuous Life: “…You are slipping away with nothing completed, nothing / To prove you existed.”
- Not Dying: “…On windless summer nights I feel those kisses…”
- Sleeping With One Eye Open: “…We all have reasons for moving. I move to keep things whole.”
- Lines for Winter: “…Tell yourself in that final flowing of cold through your limbs that you love what you are.”
- The Remains: “…The hours have done their job. I say my own name. I say goodbye.”
Credits: Photo – jrbenjamin.com
The worst possible thing you can do when you’re down in the dumps, tweaking, vaporous with victimized self-righteousness, or bored, is to take a walk with dying friends. They will ruin everything for you.
First of all, friends like this may not even think of themselves as dying, although they clearly are, according to recent scans and gentle doctors’ reports. But no, they see themselves as fully alive. They are living and doing as much as they can, as well as they can, for as long as they can.
They ruin your multitasking high, the bath of agitation, rumination, and judgment you wallow in, without the decency to come out and just say anything. They bust you by being grateful for the day, while you are obsessed with how thin your lashes have become and how wide your bottom.
~ Anne Lamott, “Prelude: Victory Lap“, Small Victories: Spotting Improbably Moments of Grace
you know when someone asks you a general question like “how are you” or jokingly says something like “do you ever even sleep” and there’s that split-second moment where you consider actually telling them things
like whether they’re good or bad things whether they’re sad or happy or anything at all you just
think about telling them
but you don’t
In fair weather,
the shy past keeps its distance.
Old loves, old regrets, old humiliations
look on from afar.
They stand back under the trees.
No one would think
to look for them there.
But in the fog they come closer.
You can feel them there
by the road as you slowly walk past.
Still as fence posts they wait,
dark and reproachful,
each stepping forward in turn.
~ Ted Kooser. February 16. An early morning fog.
This morning, I shared a gif of a parrot taking a shower.
I then check my emails and receive this message, the first of the day.
Good morning. I am very sorry to tell you that Birdie passed away this morning. She had been just fine until about 6 months ago when she began having occasional seizures. We are assuming she had one last night. Jessica found her at the bottom of the cage this morning and it seemed like she was hanging on for her to get home. She died shortly after Jessica picked her up. She spent most of every day on Jessica’s shoulder or inside her shirt during the winter months. Jessica is devastated. She lost her best animal friend.
In case you missed the original post on the background of Birdie and our family, you can find it here: “I Miss Birdie.”
Sad Day. Yet, what incredible joy this little creature brought to our family.
All the variety,
all the charm,
all the beauty of life
is made up of light and shadow.
~ Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
Crickets. Birds. And me.
Humidity 90%, but cut by a cool morning, 57º. Running weather.
I check my exercise log. Last running entry: August 3rd. I scan the page. More white space than entries. Ray is down 36 lbs in 7 weeks. I’m, well, you know, Up. And, staring at white spaces.
I’m out the door.
It’s Thursday. Evening.
(Another) last supper with the kids before they depart. It’s a short week, I’m off from work on Friday. Heaviness lifts. Weariness lingers. Gratitude drifts in. A peaceful, easy feeling sets in over dinner. Family. Our family dines together.
It’s Friday. Morning.
Eric comes up to the attic. “Why are you a hermit, Dad?”
We exchange fist bumps. As he turns, I jump him from behind and we wrestle. He’s become unmanageable. I pull up before things break, on me.
It’s Friday. Early afternoon.
We’re in the car to JFK.
President Obama visits Weschester County on Friday afternoon – the same Friday kicking off the long Labor Day weekend. His security team has shut down I-95, 287 and all major thorough ways, snarling traffic. The result: A 2.5 hour drive to JFK. Purpose of the President’s trip: Fundraisers. [Read more…]
My own brain
is to me the most unaccountable of machinery –
and then buried in mud.
What’s this passion for?
~ Virginia Woolf
Credits: Poem – Et in Arcadia Ego*
Caleb not coming out to play today…
From Brainpickings: “In 1973, one man sent a distressed letter to E.B. White, lamenting that he had lost faith in humanity. The beloved author, who was not only a masterful letter-writer but also a professional celebrator of the human condition and an unflinching proponent of the writer’s duty to uplift people, took it upon himself to boost the man’s sunken heart with a short but infinitely beautiful reply, found in Letters of Note: Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience.”
Dear Mr. Nadeau:
As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.
Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.
Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.
E. B. White
“Mom, this might be my last chance to tell you I love you.”
- A text from a high school student who was aboard the ferry that capsized yesterday off South Korea’s southern coast. Four passengers were killed, 55 were injured and more than 280 are missing. (via latimes)
“Damien Jurado is an American indie rock singer/songwriter from Seattle, Washington. He quietly built up one of the strongest catalogs on the indie scene, earning high critical praise yet somehow never quite getting his proper due. Nick Drake had a definite impact on much of his work, but Jurado modeled his career on more idiosyncratic, unpredictable figures like Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, or Randy Newman — songwriters who followed their own muse wherever it took them, whether fans and critics agreed or not. Many of Jurado’s best songs spun concise, literate tales of quiet everyday despair, which often earned him comparisons to short story writer Raymond Carver.”
His website can be found here: damienjurado.com
Liked this? Check out Jurado singing Sheets.
The poem “Solitude” was written in 1983 by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, an American Author and poet (1850-1919). It was her most enduring work. The inspiration for the poem came as she was traveling to attend the Governor’s inaugural ball in Madison, Wisconsin. On her way to the celebration, there was a young woman dressed in black sitting across the aisle from her. The woman was crying. Miss Wheeler sat next to her and sought to comfort her for the rest of the journey. When they arrived, the poet was so depressed that she could barely attend the scheduled festivities. As she looked at her own radiant face in the mirror, she suddenly recalled the sorrowful widow. It was at that moment that she wrote the opening lines of “Solitude“: [Read more…]
It’s Departure Day.
Eric is scheduled on the 7:40 am flight.
Rachel is returning later in the day.
There’s the awkward milling around the kitchen.
When everyone knows what’s coming next,
yet no one is a hurry to get on with it.
He’s scurrying around with his last minute packing.
I hover at a distance.
It is Dark.
And Cold. Temperature locked on 32° F.
We’re in the car.
The Kanigan Men are short (very) on small talk.
We ride in silence. [Read more…]
It was move-in day.
A North Carolina morning.
Where a cool breeze dusted your face.
And a cumulus cloud was chiseled into an otherwise unmarked sky.
The Sun was warming.
Yes, another one of those days in which you know.
You know that this wasn’t all by accident.
Too large. Too complex. Just too big.
We are among other parents and their children getting an early start.
Moving day buzz and jitters.
Hauling printers, pillows, college-ruled paper and milk crates. Setting up bunk beds.
Momma and Momma’s Boy are tangling over where to put stuff.
PC isn’t working.
I tell him to let me try.
I sit in his desk chair. The chair he will be sitting in for the next 9 months.
And work on setting up his printer.
I feel his disorientation.
He’s inherited this from his Dad. [Read more…]
“In the window before me I can vaguely see the image of my face. Apart from my eyes, which are shining, and the part directly beneath, which dimly reflects light, the whole of the left side lies in shade. Two deep furrows run down the forehead, one deep furrow runs down each cheek, all filled as it were with darkness, and when the eyes are staring and serious, and the mouth turned down at the corners it is impossible not to think of this face as somber.
What is it that has etched itself into you?”
~ Karl Ove Knausgaard (My Struggle: Book 2: A Man In Love. P.553)
She turned 21.
Our celebration dinner was at home earlier in the week.
Family was seated together. She was at the head of the table.
Champagne glasses filled. Dad with his Snapple. A Toast.
Her favorites. Cheesy Parmigiano-Reggiano breaded chicken breasts.
Buttery mashed potatoes. Long stemmed broccoli and cheese.
Followed by vanilla flavored birthday cake with thick gobs of frosting.
Cards from Grandparents.
She opens a small box from her Brother. Beaming. She slides on a ring.
I turn my head away to keep it together.
Discussion turns from sharing stories to plans for the evening.
“I’m staying in the city with a friend.”
“You mean you’re not coming home tonight?”
Flash of anger. Rolling to disappointment. Then settling into Sad. Turning deep, down and inward.
Dad’s leaning into a gushing current.
Water rushing over, under, through.
Hopeless to stop it. Yet he keeps trying.
Happy Birthday Honey…
“When we’re in high-drama mode, everything is a crisis. But that’s often because we need the adrenalin or we’re bored…
…The hardest thing about perspective is it means we need to grow up. Or maybe we don’t. One way to have good perspective is to see the world through the eyes of a child. We innocently report. We accept how others think and feel. If something is had or sad, or we’re scared, we say that. We say how we feel and what we want and need. We know that when we’re tired, we see things out of focus. And when things get too difficult, we either go play in the park or we take a nap. Somehow we know that everything will work out.”
Each morning. For 18 years. It would be early and dark out. I’d silently prepare for work. I’d shower. I’d shave. I’d dress. I’d grab my briefcase. I’d tip-toe past their rooms. Their doors would be closed. No need to peer in. They’re safe. And in a deep sleep under their comforters.
Today. I silently prepare for work. I shower. I shave. I dress. I grab my briefcase. I walk down the hall. My heavy footfalls ricochet off the hard wood floors and echo in their rooms. It’s early.
And it’s still dark out.
- He’s Gone.
- The Last Supper.
- If there is a God, he was here today…
- Rescue me…
- Reflections (Morn of Eric’s Graduation Day)
- Break away for 1 hour for one of life’s delights…