Mark Strand (born 1934)

Mark Strand:

"Moon" & "Black Sea"

from Man and Camel (2006)

Edited by Peter Y. Chou

Preface: When I was writing my poem "Small Talk" for Pinsky's Workshop on Jan. 31, 2007, I began writing a list poem quoting the juiciest titles from 11 women's magazines. The list poem is a poetic form used by Mark Strand in his "Giving Myself Up" (1970) on his body parts. While searching for this poem in Mark Strand's books in the Stanford stacks, I came across his most recent book Man and Camel. While flipping through the pages, I noticed two poems titled "Moon" and "Black Sea". These were the images that came to me on Jan. 10, 2007 at 1:30 am while waiting for Bus #22 that didn't show up for an hour at the Palo Alto Train Depot. I wrote my haiku that frozen night: "No stars in the sky / Half-moon tilting like a ship / sailing the Black Sea" Then browsing through the Jan. 9 issue of Stanford Daily, I noticed Robert Pinsky's "The Occasions of Poetry" class on Wednesday from 3:15 pm to 6:05 pm. I was so excited that Pinsky is teaching at Stanford that I went to his class Wednesday, not realizing it was a small workshop. Pinsky's first words to the class were lines from Yeats' "Sailing to Byzantium": "There is no singing school, but study monuments for their magnificence." When I learned that Byzantium-Constantinople-Istanbul is on the Black Sea, it dawned upon me that the Half-Moon was speaking to me that night to sail to Byzantium. Later, I found a book Window on the Black Sea in the Stanford stacks with Pinsky translating the poems of Boris Christov. Somehow I feel that the Moon and the Black Sea are still speaking to me, and am composing this web page featuring these poems of Mark Strand. In the PBS Interview (April 15, 1999), Elizabeth Farnsworth asked "What do you look for when you read a poem?" Mark Strand repied, "I look for astonishment. I look to be moved, to have my view of the world in which I live somewhat changed, enlarged. I want both to belong more strongly to it or more emphatically to it, and yet, to be able to see it, to have— well, it's almost a paradox to say this— a more compassionate distance." I continue to be astonished and moved in Robert Pinsky's workshops, learning much from his insights on the wonderful world of poetry.


Open the book of evening to the page
where the moon, always the moon appears

between two clouds, moving so slowly that hours
will seem to have passed before you reach the next page

where the moon, now brighter, lowers a path
to lead you away from what you have known

into those places where what you had wished for happens,
its lone syllable like a sentence poised

at the edge of sense, waiting for you to say its name
once more as you lift your eyes from the page

close the book, still feeling what it was like
to dwell in that light, that sudden paradise of sound.

Mark Strand, "Moon"
     Man and Camel (2006) (p. 30)



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?

Mark Strand, "Black Sea"
     Man and Camel (2006) (p. 25)


Mark Strand on the Web

Wikipedia: Mark Strand
Academy of American Poets: Mark Strand
Mark Strand's Life and Career (By Jay Parini)
About Mark Strand's Poetry (By Richard Howard)
Mark Strand on Poetry and Poetics
"Poetry in the World" Essay by Mark Strand
PBS Interview: Pulitzer Poet Mark Strand (April 15, 1999)
Mark Strand: Chicken, Shadow, Moon and More
Book Review: Mark Strand, Man and Camel
(Noah Berlatsky, Chicago Reader, Oct. 20, 2006)

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P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (2-4-2007)