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Saturday, April 30, 2016

It's always about the language


“Poetry is, first and last, language - the rest is filler.” – Mark Strand
  
Canadian-born (on Prince Edward Island where Anne of Green Gables was set), Strand eventually studied in America and became an American citizen where he had a distinguished career as a poet, essayist and translator.  He died in 2014 at age 80.

In 1990 Strand was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and in 2004 he received the Wallace Stevens Award, given to "recognize outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry.”  The Stevens also
 provides a cash prize of $100 thousand        
 – which makes it the richest prize in poetry unless a poet happens to win the Nobel Prize.

Which is not to say he didn’t do well in the awards department.  Strand received numerous prizes for his work, including a MacArthur Fellowship (The “Genius” grant) in 1987, and the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, for Blizzard of One.  Known for his highly personal touch, he said "Pain is filtered in a poem so that, in the end, it becomes pleasure."

Here, from Blizzard of One is Saturday’s Poem:

The Everyday Enchantment of Music

A rough sound was polished until it became
a smoother sound, which was polished until
it became music.
Then the music was polished until
it became the memory of a night in Venice
when tears of the sea fell from the Bridge of Sighs,
which in turn was polished until it ceased
to be and in its place stood the empty home
of a heart in trouble.
Then suddenly there was sun and the music came back
and traffic was moving and off in the distance,
at the edge of the city, a long line of clouds appeared,
and there was thunder, which, however menacing,
would become music, and the memory of what happened after
Venice would begin, and what happened
after the home of the troubled heart broke in two would also begin.



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