The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Dark Harbor is a book-length poem in unrhymed verse, divided into forty-five sections that are identified sequentially by roman numerals. There is also an introduction in verse entitled “Proem.” Each section, including “Proem,” is written in tercets, but six of the sections end with stanzas of only one or two lines.

The title resonates with echoes of some of Strand’s earlier books: Sleeping with One Eye Open, his first book of poems; Reasons for Moving, probably fueled by his life as the son of a salesman who moved his family too often for them to form long-term relationships with other people; and Darker, perhaps the first of Strand’s books to convince the critics that his apparent preoccupation with the darker aspects of life was actually a vehicle for explorations of the human ability to find the light hidden in the darkness. Beyond these first three books, all of Strand’s books of poetry (and even his children’s books) push and pull readers through the dark harbors of the human journey.

Although Dark Harbor is not a narrative poem in the classic sense of a work that has a definable beginning, middle, and end, it has a combined sense of form and unity that gives it the sort of through-line of thought that one normally expects from a narrative. The narrator of the poem is a poet on a journey, an odyssey that takes him through a return to his places (both physical and spiritual) of origin and eventually brings him to a place of closure.

Each of the forty-five numbered sections is written from the first-person perspective of the narrator, but “Proem” is written from the perspective of an omniscient narrator. This narrator serves as a sort of Greek chorus who introduces the narrator of all that is to follow, the poet/narrator: “ ‘This is my Main Street,’ he said as he started off/ That morning, leaving the town to the others.” These opening lines set the stage for the poet/narrator to take the reader on a journey. Halfway through “Proem” comes the first hard evidence that the narrator who is being introduced is indeed a poet, almost certainly Strand himself or an image of himself that he wants to project for the reader: “he would...

(The entire section is 915 words.)