Introduction: “Between Two Great Darks”: How to Read Poetry

  • James F. Nicosia


In “chapter” 9 of The Monument, Mark Strand reveals his nihilistic view of the state of human affairs when he says, “Nothing is the destiny of everyone,” yet also provides the foundation for poetry within this nothingness by saying, “It has been necessary to submit to vacancy in order to begin again, to clear ground, to make space” (9). Readers and critics must, says the poet, provide space for the poems themselves. No critical preconceptions or personal expectations should control their reading process. Yes, intimate knowledge of this poet, and perhaps all the poets that poet has ever read, is essential to developing a more profound poetic experience. But the experience of a poem, Strand’s or otherwise, is something that only can happen in real time, that is, the time during which the reader reads the poem. Other mental links to previous poems and poets may—and should— be made by the individual reader, à la J. Hillis Miller’s Ariadne’s Thread. But what fascinates the forthright reader of poetry is what happens during the reading of the poem.


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© James F. Nicosia 2007

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  • James F. Nicosia

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