Mark Strand: The Negative of Night

Over the weekend I finished reading Mark Strand’s poetry collection The Late Hour. I was introduced to the poet only after reading about his recent passing at the age of 80. Here’s the story from NPR.

The Canadian-born Strand, who was also an artist and wrote prose, was named the U.S. Poet Laureate in 1990 and won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1999 for his collection Blizzard of One.

Mark Strand, 1934-2014

Mark Strand, 1934-2014

In The Late Hour, Strand writes in a spare, clear style that reaches readers on an emotional level. There’s no verbal clutter to get in the way of what Strand is trying to express; these are poems worth revisiting to ponder their meaning.

I particularly liked Snowfall. And it seems fitting to mention it as we head into the slumber of another long winter in the Syracuse area. In fact, a Winter Storm Warning remains in effect for central New York until Thursday morning, with the National Weather Service calling for eight to 12 inches of snow.

So I’ll probably think about Strand’s words as the snowfall accumulates over the next couple of days.


Watching the snow cover the ground, cover itself,
cover everything that is not you, you see
it is the downward drift of light
upon the sound of air sweeping away the air,
it is the fall of moments into moments, the burial
of sleep, the down of winter, the negative of night.

Another poem that caught my attention was Night Pieces, and I loved the imagery of the line, “where the dim quilted countryside seems to doze.” Here’s the full stanza.

Not only is it still a night
on deserted roads and hilltops
where the dim, quilted countryside seems to doze
as it fans out into clumps of trees dark and unbending
against the sky, with the gray dust of moonlight upon them,

Strand, Mark. The Late Hour. New York: Atheneum, 1979.

To read more about Mark Strand, visit his page at the Poetry Foundation’s website.