Mark Strand was a Canadian-born American poet who was our poet laureate in 1990 and who won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1999. He died last week at the age of 80.
Strand was recognized as one of the premier American poets of his generation. In addition, he was an accomplished editor, translator, and writer of prose. His style was marked by a precise use of language, surreal imagery, and a recurring theme of absence and negation. His writing also utilized pointed, often urbane wit to convey his message.
Here is an example of his poetry that seems especially appropriate for the season.
Lines for Winter
by Mark Strand
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon's gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.