Last Updated September 6, 2023.
Dark Harbor is not a narrative poem. It does not possess a beginning, a middle, and an end; nor does it have characters or conflict in the typical sense of a work of fiction. The poem's main character, so to speak, seems to be a poet. The poem may be, at least in some ways, autobiographical, with the speaker representing the author, Mark Strand. The speaker describes at length what it is like to be poet, to have to leave behind one's former life in order to strike out on one's own and pursue a life of poetry. The speaker also notes the difficulties of trying to write in such a way that one remains true to oneself while also producing texts that feel relevant and important to others in the world.
The Speaker's Parents
Occasionally, the speaker describes his mother and father, especially as he must leave them behind in order to move forward and begin his career as a writer. Their lives go on without him as he must find his own way forward and pursue his development as a poet alone.
The speaker also refers to a "you" at several places in the poem, but it seems as though the person referred to by this pronoun shifts depending on its context: sometimes it refers to the speaker himself, other times to the reader, and still other times to people, in general, who are not poets themselves.
The speaker does reference other poets as well, specifically ancient Greek poets with whom he finds himself in company as he gains experience and expertise; however, they are not really active as characters in this text. One returns as "an angel" in the end, "one of the good [poets]" who "sings": her work is remembered, and her life is relevant even after it is over.