Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Running on Empty?

After 8 years (his last book of poetry being "A Blizzard of One" for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999) Mark Strand has come out with a new collection of poetry - his eleventh: "Man and Camel" - (Knopf - 2006). Here are some reviews:

"Our skills are limited, our power / to imagine enfeebled." That's Mark Strand in his newest volume of poetry, Man and Camel, and, at least as far as his own work is concerned, it's hard to argue. The poverty of imagination on display would almost seem parodic if there were any indication that Strand had a sense of humor. "

-----------------------------------------------------------------Noah Berlatsky

"This eleventh collection by Mark Strand is a toast to life’s transience and abiding beauty. ... As always with Mark Strand, the discovery of meaning in the sound of language itself is an act of faith that enlightens us and carries us beyond the bounds of the rational."

------------------------------------------------------------------Borzoi Reader

"...Strand allows this new book to show all the signs of pruning and purging. The sieve of art descends into the well of intimate contemplation and retrieves 23 closely reasoned poems remarkably consistent in the character of the Baffled Seer persisting in the double terror (or is it joy?) of all Strand's expression: evanescence of the longed-for Other, desolate wonder of the self."

-------------------------------------------------------------------Richard Howard

An excerpt:

Man and Camel

On the eve of my fortieth birthday
I sat on the porch having a smoke
when out of the blue a man and a camel
happened by. Neither uttered a sound
at first, but as they drifted up the street
and out of town the two of them began to sing.
Yet what they sang is still a mystery to me—
the words were indistinct and the tune
too ornamental to recall. Into the desert
they went and as they went their voices
rose as one above the sifting sound
of windblown sand. The wonder of their singing,
its elusive blend of man and camel, seemed
an ideal image for all uncommon couples.
Was this the night that I had waited for
so long? I wanted to believe it was,
but just as they were vanishing, the man
and camel ceased to sing, and galloped
back to town. They stood before my porch,
staring up at me with beady eyes, and said:
“You ruined it. You ruined it forever.”

Black Sea

One clear night while the others slept, I climbed
the stairs to the roof of the house and under a sky
strewn with stars I gazed at the sea, at the spread of it,
the rolling crests of it raked by the wind, becoming
like bits of lace tossed in the air. I stood in the long,
whispering night, waiting for something, a sign, the approach
of a distant light, and I imagined you coming closer,
the dark waves of your hair mingling with the sea,
and the dark became desire, and desire the arriving light.
The nearness, the momentary warmth of you as I stood
on that lonely height watching the slow swells of the sea
break on the shore and turn briefly into glass and disappear . . .
Why did I believe you would come out of nowhere? Why with all
that the world offers would you come only because I was here?

Mother and Son

The son enters the mother’s room
and stands by the bed where the mother lies.
The son believes that she wants to tell him
what he longs to hear—that he is her boy,
always her boy. The son leans down to kiss
the mother’s lips, but her lips are cold.
The burial of feelings has begun. The son
touches the mother’s hands one last time,
then turns and sees the moon’s full face.
An ashen light falls across the floor.
If the moon could speak, what would it say?
If the moon could speak, it would say nothing.

My Name

Once when the lawn was a golden green
and the marbled moonlit trees rose like fresh memorials
in the scented air, and the whole countryside pulsed
with the chirr and murmur of insects, I lay in the grass,
feeling the great distances open above me, and wondered
what I would become and where I would find myself,
and though I barely existed, I felt for an instant
that the vast star-clustered sky was mine, and I heard
my name as if for the first time, heard it the way
one hears the wind or the rain, but faint and far off
as though it belonged not to me but to the silence
from which it had come and to which it would go.

from- "Man and Camel" - by Mark Strand - 2006
Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

1 comment:

john said...

Some of these are great. Thanks.

-John Powers