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…]