All the world's a poem


“Who will be the first man to forget a continent?” the poet read. “The great forgetters were hard at work.” Drawing the audience into a reflective trance Thursday afternoon, Mark Strand, the Andrew MacLeish distinguished service professor in the Committee on Social Thought, gave the Divinity School’s 2004 John Nuveen Lecture.

Creating a mood sometimes grave, sometimes humorous, he led his listeners into a realm of lyrical imagery, addressing themes of transience, apathy, consciousness, desire, and death. “I am not thinking of death but death is thinking of me,” he recited from his unpublished work 2002, due out in 2006. Besides new poetry, Strand, the 1990–91 U.S. poet laureate, also analyzed passages from his Pulitzer Prize–winning Blizzard of One (Knopf, 1999) and The Continuous Life (Knopf, 1990).

A painter turned poet, Strand often crafts his verses as pictures, he said. “The idea of shaping something poetically is like painting; my intent is to first establish order.” He initially drew inspiration from artists and writers he encountered as a young man. “This has been a very rich century for American poetry,” he said, citing Donald Justice, Wallace Stevens (whose namesake award Strand won last month), Elizabeth Bishop, and Robert Lowell. “Having read these poems early on in my teenage years,” he recalled, “initiated me into the realm of imagination where I could get away from the world around me.”

By Bianca Sepulveda, AB’04

November 8, 2004