Mark Strand

Mark Strand (1934 - 2014) was born in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada on April 11, 1934. When Strand was 4, he moved with his family to the United States and spent most of his childhood in New York, Philadelphia, and Cleveland. As a teenager, he lived in Colombia, Peru, and Mexico, most of the traveling due to his father's profession as a salesman. While he was growing up, Strand’s mother said he would become a painter. His parents encouraged him to create art, hoping it would not distract him from a more stable career. Strand studied at Antioch College, where he took a BA in 1957. He also received a BFA from Yale in 1959, where he studied painting. He soon after realized that he wasn’t cut out to be a painter, so he traveled to Italy on a Fulbright Scholarship to study nineteenth-century poetry. He attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa the following year and earned a Master of Fine Arts in 1962. In 1965 he spent a year in Brazil as a Fulbright Lecturer.

Strand's poetry is known for a clarity reminiscent of the paintings of Edward Hopper, and for a deeply inward sense of language. Many of the poems aspire to the condition of dreams, shot through with images possessing a strangely haunting vividness, as in 'The Ghost Ship', which summons a mysterious ship that floats 'Through the crowded streets ... / its vague / tonnage like wind'. He is said to be influence by Latin American surrealism and European writers like Franz Kafka. He frequently invokes everyday images, as in 'The Mailman', where a wraith-like mailman visits the narrator at midnight to deliver 'terrible personal news'. In 'The Last Bus' the poet imagines Rio de Janeiro, calling the sea 'a dream' in which the city 'dies and is reborn'. The poem is surreal in a manner that combines the dreamlike quality of Pablo Neruda with aspects of nightmare that recall such European expressionists as Georg Trakl. His first book, Sleeping with One Eye Open, was published in 1964.

In 1981, Strand was elected a member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters. Strand has received numerous awards including grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bollingen Prize, A National Institute of Arts and Letters Award, a Rockefeller Foundation award, a fellowship from the Academy of American poets, a MacArthur Fellowship in 1987, and a Pulitzer Prize in 1999 for A Blizzard of One.

Strand served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress during the 1990-1991 term and is a former Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets. Strand taught at many American universities, including Colombia, Princeton, Harvard, and was a former faculty member in the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. He published eleven books of poetry, in addition to translations from the poetry of Rafael Alberti and Carlos Drummond de Andrade, among others. He left his position as Andrew MacLeish Distinguished Service Professor of Social Thought at the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago in 2005, and taught at Columbia University.
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