— Poet Mark Strand, who died this weekend. The Pulitzer Prize-winner and former Poet Laureate was 80.
His work was spare, unflinching, clear-eyed — the kinds of poems that linger with you. The one that haunts me, personally, is Lines for Winter. It’s both beautiful and brutal, with a last line that twists and changes every time I read it: “Tonight as it gets cold / tell yourself / what you know which is nothing / but the tune your bones play / as you keep going … tell yourself / in that final flowing of cold through your limbs / that you love what you are.”
But when I heard of his death, I turned to his poem “Orpheus Alone.” In its final lines, the poem — describing how the agony of loss was transmuted into poetry — might well be describing the work of Strand himself, and what he left us with:
… it came in a language
Untouched by pity, in lines, lavish and dark,
Where death is reborn and sent into the world as a gift,
So the future, with no voice of its own, nor hope
Of ever becoming more than it will be, might mourn.