“Still We Feel Better for Trying,” or Why Write a Poem?: The Story of Our Lives, The Late Hour, “New Poems,” The Continuous Life
Written after his father’s death, and dedicated to Strand’s father, the poems of The Story of Our Lives could have been Strand’s most cynical, disturbing creations to date. Curiously, they are not. Instead, this volume is Strand’s furthest foray into the imaginative world, and, upon further reflection, this is not such a surprise. The elegiac form, after all, has been invoked throughout history by masters during personally trying circumstances because of its potential to replace loss. Poems such as “The Story of Our Lives” contain the same suspicions about poetry’s ultimate capabilities, but in fact end up celebrating the subjective world. In fact, this collection creates, until Dark Harbor in 1993, Strand’s longest sustained alternate universe. Therefore, many critics consider it one of his finest works. The characters of “The Story of Our Lives” become part of the book discussed in the poem, and the perspectives and intertextuality wind themselves around so tightly that the only thing that is certain is “the book” created in the poem that creates the poet who writes by the book. The book, being a Mark Strand construct, does not last, of course. But for the moment one is engaged in the textual whirlwind, one’s loss is repaired. The nature of the elegiac form utilized in several moments in this collection allows for the loss to be replaced by the poem itself, and as such, the poem becomes both the most intimate and impersonal memorial construction a poet can formulate.
KeywordsArtistic Creation Pure Possibility Imaginative World Continuous Life Beaded Light
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