Critical Overview

(Poetry for Students)

From the beginning, Mark Strand's work caught the attention and won the praise of critics and readers of poetry in general. His distinct style and odd subject matter were the major draw. The first two books, Sleeping With One Eye Open and Reasons for Moving, established his reputation as a poet caught up in morbidity and death, as well as self-absorption most often expressed through dreamlike events. That he was able to write clear, concise, brief poems that opened up a very complex world of distortions for the reader was a credit to his talent as a poet. Critic David Kirby, in his Mark Strand and the Poet's Place in Contemporary Culture, states that, "Many poems in Strand's first book show an uneasy preoccupation with the self, and the vehicle used to express that preoccupation is often a dream state in which the speaker is divided between two worlds and can locate himself comfortably in neither."

In Richard Howard's Alone with America: Essays on the Art of Poetry in the United States Since 1950, the critic comments that Reasons for Moving is "two dozen poems in which [Strand] not only raises his voice but rouses his vision with it, so that we do not again forget what we have seen, what we have heard." Addressing "Eating Poetry" in particular, Howard claims that "The poems Strand is eating are those of his first book, and the diet affords him a distinct playfulness, a grotesquerie unthinkable in the old forebodings."


(The entire section is 322 words.)