Other literary forms

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In addition to poetry, Mark Strand has written Mr. and Mrs. Baby, and Other Stories (1985), a collection of short stories with a bent for fantasy, and The Monument (1978), primarily a novel, but which contains a few dozen poems integral to the discourse. Strand has translated poetry into English, the most noteworthy volumes of which are Eighteen Poems from the Quechua (1971) and The Owl’s Insomnia: Poems by Rafael Alberti (1973). He has edited or coedited several anthologies of poetry, the most important of which are The Contemporary American Poets: American Poetry Since 1940 (1969) and The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms (2000), with Eavan Boland. His books on art include Hopper (1994, 2001) and William Bailey (1987). In The Weather of Words: Poetic Invention (2000), Strand collects many of his magazine essays on poetry. His most successful book for children is The Planet of Lost Things (1982).

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From early in his career, Mark Strand has been received with respect by critics. His poetry, while grounded in a reality that borders on the surreal, manages to evoke sensations and sensitivity, flavored with a taste for the abstract and bizarre, which convey the haunting, factual nature of the human psyche. Although his poetry is clearly unusual in this ability, and while he has been given a series of awards and other recognitions, his work has not received the final honor—that is, his poems have not been commonly anthologized. Strand’s Blizzard of One received the Pulitzer Prize in 1999. He also won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for The Story of Our Lives from the Academy of American Poets (1974), an Academy Award in Literature (1975) and a Gold Medal (2009) from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Bobbitt National Prize (1992), the Bollingen Prize (1993), the Bingham Poetry Prize (1999), and the Wallace Stevens Award (2004). Strand has been awarded fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation (1960 and 1965), the Guggenheim Foundation (1974), the Academy of American Poets (1979), and the MacArthur Foundation (1987), as well as grants from the Ingram Merrill Foundation (1966), the National Endowment for the Arts (1967), and the Rockefeller Foundation (1968). He served as poet laureate consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress from 1990 to 1991 and as chancellor for the Academy of American Poets from 1995 to 2000.


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Aaron, Jonathan. “About Mark Strand: A Profile.” Ploughshares 21, no. 4 (Winter, 1995/1996): 202-205. This is an excellent short overview of Strand’s career, accomplishments, and sense of himself as a writer. Strand is the guest editor of this issue of the magazine.

Bloom, Harold. “Dark and Radiant Peripheries: Mark Strand and A. R. Ammons.” Southern Review 8 (Winter, 1972): 133-141. This article is formally divided into four main sections: The introduction and conclusion briefly compare the poetry of Strand and Ammons, while the second section is given to Strand and the third to Ammons. Critical commentary is provided for the title poems of Strand’s first three volumes: Sleeping with One Eye Open, Reasons for Moving, and Darker. Bloom focuses on the “dark” elements of Strand’s work.

_______, ed. Mark Strand. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2003. A collection of essays examining four poems: “The Story of Our Lives,” “The Way It Is,” “Elegy for My Father,” and “Dark Harbor.”

Gregorson, Linda. “Negative Capability.” Parnassus: Poetry in Review 9 (1981): 90-114. Gregorson discusses poems from Strand’s Selected Poems. She focuses on the rhymes and meters of the poetry, as well as the imagery. Also included are some critical analyses of the poet’s use of prosody. Her overall effort is to trace the developing forms and formats of the recognizably better poems.

Howard, Richard. “Mark Strand.” In Alone with America: Essays on the Art of Poetry in the United States Since 1950. New York: Atheneum, 1980. Howard writes critically of Strand’s first two collections of poems, Sleeping with One Eye Open and Reasons for Moving. He sees the second volume as an outgrowth and continuation of the first one. Howard focuses on the duality of Strand’s nature and his inability to reconcile the different aspects of his personality.

Kirby, David. Mark Strand and the Poet’s Place in Contemporary American Culture. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1990. A fascinating exploration of the public roles and stances of the poet, with Strand as the central case in point. More a study in the sociology of literature than a work of literary criticism, yet important because Strand’s public persona and his writing have a strange symbiotic relationship.

Nicosia, James F. Reading Mark Strand: His Collected Works, Career, and the Poetics of the Privative. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. This work provides detailed analysis of more than seventy poems by Strand. Studying the works chronologically, Nicosia makes enlightening connections between Strand’s life and his poetry.

Olsen, Lance. “Entry to the Unaccounted For: Mark Strand’s Fantastic Autism.” In The Poetic Fantastic: Studies in an Evolving Genre, edited by Patrick D. Murphy and Vernon Hyles. New York: Greenwood Press, 1989. In this short article of some ten pages, Olsen interprets much of Strand’s work in terms of fantasy. He deals specifically with poems taken from Sleeping with One Eye Open and Reasons for Moving. The critic sees many elements of science fiction in Strand’s poems, as well as metafiction.

Strand, Mark. “Mark Strand: The Art of Poetry LXXVII.” Interview by Wallace Shawn. Paris Review 40, no. 148 (Fall, 1998): 146-179. Strand discusses his poetic themes and writing style.

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Critical Essays