cover image Collected Poems

Collected Poems

Mark Strand. Knopf, $30 (512p) ISBN 978-0-385-35251-2

“The secret voice of being telling us/ that where we disappear is where we are,” is written in the confident, inviting, yet almost “always mournful, always sad” voice Strand has sustained for 50 years, in blank verse, chiseled stanzas, and compact prose poems. Nothingness, the void; solipsism, the lure of the mirror; blank otherness, as seen in the moon and the seashore—these simple symbols predominate in oeuvre most influential in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when its stripped-down lyrics and asides matched a national trend. Later, the former U.S. Poet Laureate and 1999 Pulitzer Prize–winner leavened the bleakness with avuncular jokes, extended meditative passages, and comical alter egos. Now based in Madrid and teaching at Columbia University, Strand enjoys wide respect among poetry’s institutions. First-time readers may be surprised at the short length of the volume, which is Strand’s first collected edition, but they may also find it absorbing in its focus on first and last things. For all the streamlined sadness of his dreamlike domain, Strand remains aware of other poets, which is particularly evident in his homages, translations, and elegies. His recent string of short sardonic prose poems are all quite distinct from one another, but all are instantly, recognizably Strand, “erasing the world and leaving instead/ The invisible lines of its calling: Out there, out there.” [em](Oct.) [/em]