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Mark Strand 1934-

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American poet, short story writer, essayist, editor, author of children's books, and critic. See also Mark Strand Literary Criticism (Volume 6) and Mark Strand Literary Criticism (Volume 18).

Strand's poetry, produced over a period of more than forty years, has earned critical acclaim, numerous awards, and a devoted following among poetry lovers. His verse deals primarily with the relationship between the individual self and the rest of the world in language that is spare and through images that are often surreal and dream-like. In addition to his verse, Strand has written fictional prose, art criticism, children's literature, and short stories. In 1990 he was named Poet Laureate of the United States.

Biographical Information

Strand was born on April 11, 1934, in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada, to Robert Joseph and Sonia Apter Strand. The family left Canada when Strand was four years old, relocating to various American cities throughout Strand's childhood. He attended Antioch College in Ohio, receiving a B.A. in 1957, and then studied painting at Yale for two years, earning a B.F.A. in 1959. He was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in 1960 and spent that year at the University of Florence. In 1962, Strand earned an M.A. from the University of Iowa where he taught English for three years. He married Antonia Ratensky in 1961; the marriage ended in divorce twelve years later. He married Julia Garretson in 1965. Strand has two children: a daughter, Jessica, from his first marriage, and a son, Thomas, from his second. In 1965-66, the poet served as a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. He has taught at numerous colleges and universities, including Columbia, Yale, Princeton, Brandeis, the University of Virginia, and Harvard. Since 1998, Strand has taught in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.

In addition to the two Fulbright Fellowships, Strand has received a number of other awards and grants, among them an Ingram-Merrill Foundation Grant in 1966, a National Endowment for the Arts Grant in 1967, a Rockefeller Foundation Grant in 1968, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1974, and an Academy of American Poets Fellowship in 1980. His poetry collection The Story of Our Lives (1973) earned the Academy of American Poets' Edgar Allan Poe Award the year following its publication, and the 1998 collection Blizzard of One was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In 1987, Strand received the so-called genius award from the MacArthur Foundation, and in 1990 was named U.S. Poet Laureate.

Major Works

Strand's first volume of poetry was Sleeping with One Eye Open (1964). The poems in the collection introduced readers to themes and concerns that would dominate his work throughout his career: the search for identity, a sense of apprehension, and recurring images of absence, negation, and self-effacement. His next offering, Reasons for Moving (1968), confirmed his reputation for writing dark, even morbid, poetry. In 1970 he produced Darker: Poems and in 1973 the award-winning collection, The Story of Our Lives, which contains the critically acclaimed “Elegy for My Father” and “The Untelling,” perhaps Strand's most famous poem. In “The Untelling,” the poet-speaker recalls a scene from his childhood at a lake, telling, retelling, and eventually “untelling” the story with an awareness of the interplay between memory and reality, between the perceptions of a child and the reminiscences of an adult. The work was followed by The Monument (1978), a collection of 52 ruminations described by one critic as “not quite poetry, not quite prose,” sprinkled throughout with quotations from Strand's literary influences.

In 1980 Strand published Selected Poems, containing verse from his earlier collections, after which he produced no poetry for the next ten years. In the 1990s he returned to the genre with The...

(The entire section contains 54215 words.)

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Strand, Mark (Vol. 18)