- Birthday, Books, Quotes, Reading, Writing

Mark Strand on Writing, Poems, Imagination, and More.


Happy birthday, Mark Strand! Here are some quotes from his work:


“Each moment is a place / you’ve never been.”


“Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.”


“I think the best American poetry is the poetry that utilizes the resources of poetry rather than exploits the defects or triumphs of the poet’s personality. Poetry is, first and last, language—the rest is filler.”


“I think a poet’s focus is…not entirely on the world outside. It’s fixed on the area where the inside meets the outside, where the poet’s sensibility meets the weather, meets the street, meets other people…that shadow land between self and reality.”


“I’m putting together what I need to have this thing alive.”


“I think in the last analysis the universe is very large and we are very small, and I think that we are so small, and we know so little, that it doesn’t behoove us to be arrogant.”


“That’s our imaginary lives. It’s different. It obeys different rules. Anything goes. We can do anything in our imaginations which is not possible in actuality to do. And we bear the responsibility for our actions in real life, but for our imaginative life, it would be terribly constricting if we held to the responsibilities of our actions there. Because they are not our actions. It’s a mistake to make moral judgments about what one does in his writing. It’s this imaginary world and it has its own rules and it’s where you can do things. If suddenly we weren’t able to write about certain things this would be a kind of tyranny and our imaginations would be jailed.”


“It wouldn’t be any fun to write the poems if we had absolute control. We have to be surprised by our poems. Surprised by things that come to mind and that, at least while you’re writing the poems, seem absolutely necessary for the life of the poem.”


“But if you’re a writer or an artist of any sort, you do depend on your imagination and to cultivate it is not like bodybuilding, it’s a kind of thinking, of daydreaming.”


“[W]riting poetry for me was a way of creating identity, one that I didn’t have.”


“I am interested in relinquishing my imagination to the possibilities that language offers up.”


“I am not a poetry writing machine. It’s not a reflex. It’s not an automatic thing with me. I have to feel I’m in that world.”


“There’s far too much written. People should take a sabbatical from writing and do more reading.”


“There are a couple of ways poems reflect a life. They can reflect the life by accounting for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a kind of biographical poem that I find boring. But, there’s another biography or autobiography that we’re living which is the psychic one, which is the one our imagination lives. And the imagination is the tool from which we draw our imagery, the music that we hear that feeds our poems. The life of the imagination is the life that interests me…”


“[T]he life that the poems register is the life of the mind, the imagination; it’s the inner life.”


“I have always felt lucky to be alive and, at the same time, wondered when my luck would run out.”



John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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