We went to sell books for the U of U guest writers series, with Mark Strand kicking off their season of readings at the main library. We didn’t get to hear him read as we had a table of books to babysit outside, but that’s a big auditorium and it was standing room only in there. I had a quick look in as we were packing up and the signing line went all the way up the stairs!
More than twenty-five years after the appearance of his first Selected Poems, we at last have a magnificent new gathering of Mark Strand’s work, one that spans and celebrates his entire remarkable career to date. From Sleeping with One Eye Open (1964) through the wonderful middle work that includes The Continuous Life (1990), and crowned by the Pulitzer Prize–winning Blizzard of One (1998) and his most recent collection, Man and Camel (2006), this book makes a crucial selection of Strand’s always beautiful and by turns humorous and melancholy poems.
Over the decades Strand’s identity as a poet has remained firm: he is existential, playful, mysterious, a poet of simple words and sentences that somehow add up to powerful universal experiences. With his incantatory language and radiant, commanding imagery, he creates mythic scenes and vistas that, however otherworldly, are ultimately of this earth: their underlying subject the pain and pleasure of being mortal.
Here is an essential compilation from one of the most beloved and honored American poets at work today, without which no modern poetry collection is complete.