Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Mark Strand: 'A Piece of the Storm'

Snowflake-018 by yellowcloud. Used under Creative Commons license

American (Canadian-born) poet Mark Strand, who among other honours won a Pulitzer and served as the US Poet Laureate, died in November 2014. I was certainly somewhat familiar with his work at this point, but I'm now not sure if it was before or after his death that I read the poem 'A Piece of the Storm'. I think it may have been not long before.

Something reminded me of this poem today and I can't remember what it was. Or maybe it's not a case of remembering. It may have been the snow that isn't falling from the sky and hasn't fallen all winter, here in London. Maybe it was the snow that most certainly fell on the Eastern seaboard. Or it could be the feeling that a poem seems to be nudging at me, waiting to be created.

I loved this poem the first time I read it and I know I will never forget it. The poem itself is like the snowflake, the piece of the storm. It could be about "the lifting and falling away of attention" that sometimes - even much later - leads to artistic creation. It could be about an announcement of divine revelation, a vision of the future. It could be about the tiny moments, the tiny fragments that lead to an enormous change - "It's time. The air is ready. The sky has an opening" - like a Rilkeian "you must change your life." Or it could be, in its plainest form, about the moments before a storm. It is any and all of these, and probably a perfect poem.

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