THE WEATHER OF WORDS by Mark Strand

THE WEATHER OF WORDS

Poetic Invention
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Memorable, if sometimes inflated, prose on poems, poetry, and the poet by the Pulitzer Prize—winner. Semi-famous Strand made his mark with a string of eight poetry collections before Blizzard Of One (1998), a MacArthur Fellowship, a stint as Poet Laureate, and a teaching post at the University of Chicago. As a painterly poet like John Ashbery, Strand notes poetry’s immortal edge over the fleeting, fading, and inevitably historic quality of photography. Like Wallace Stevens (who, like Ashbery, is treated here), Strand addresses an old photo of his mother 58 years after it was taken and declares: “It is I, it is the future, experiencing a terrible ineradicable exclusion.” Strand does a detailed yet impassioned job of teaching poetry. Readers will learn to appreciate the craft, imagery, and mood of a poem by Archibald MacLeish that might seem inaccessible. Strand’s sensitive explication and his observation that “a poem is a place where the conditions of beyondness and withinness are made palpable” will make them forgive his obscure praise of the poem’s “sad crepuscular beauty.” Strand is equally comfortable analyzing familiar poems like Edwin Arlington Robinson’s —Richard Cory.— He identifies poetry as the enigmatic, questioning “enemy” in our information age whose torrential flow of data—just the facts, please—provides the illusion of certainty in an uncertain world. As an antidote to the deceptive verities of newspapers and e-mails, Strand offers poetic skill and personality, poetic modes like narrative, lyric, and translation, and poets from Virgil to Joseph Brodsky. Readers who survive Strand’s imaginative but self-important alphabetical list of his artistic influences and don’t mind learning from the self-conscious laureate that of all bodies of water he prefers lakes, “where one can kneel at the edge, look down and see oneself,” will be most entertained and enlightened by this weighty little book. A spring afternoon in the dead of February for fans of Strand and modern poetry.

Pub Date: Feb. 16th, 2000
ISBN: 0-375-40911-4
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1999




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AdultTHE MAKING OF A POEM by Mark Strand
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