Following the Trail: In Memory of Mark Strand

Mark Strand

Two weeks ago, as I write this, Mark Strand died. His poetry has been an incredible influence on my development as a poet. He was also a friend whose support and encouragement has been no less important to me than his writing. And even though I knew how ill he was, it was still indescribably sad to realize Mark was gone. I think it will take me awhile to come back to his poetry – his newly released Collected Poems will be an invaluable resource when I’m ready.

In the meantime, The Weather of Words, Mark’s collection of essays on the craft of writing poetry, has been a good companion. As always, his conversations here are starting points that quickly lead to other writings and other ways of thinking. And so, in addition to his collection, I now have Wallace Stevens’ Owl’s Clover to consider, and what Mark describes as Paul Valery’s ‘peculiar’ essay, “Poetry and Abstract Thought” – which is indeed a strange and fascinating exploration of process.

I’ve had the privilege of reading some exceptional poetry collections this past year, still stacked by my bedside table, and having scanned the ‘Best of 2014’ poetry lists, I know I have many wonderful moments of discovery to look forward to in the coming months. But for now, my impulse is to look back and spend some time with those writings that are not newly written, but new to me, and to explore those places that are ageless, timeless, and constantly open to renewal.

Virginia Smith Rice earned her MFA in creative writing from Northwestern University. Her first full-length poetry collection, When I Wake It Will Be Forever, was published in 2014 by Sundress Publications. Her poems appear in Cimarron Review, Cincinnati Review, Denver Quarterly, Meridian, Rattle, Stone Highway Review, Superstition Review, and Third Coast, among other journals. She is co-editor of the online poetry journal, Kettle Blue Review, and associate editor at Canopic Publishing.

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