Breath and Being in the Poetry of Mark Strand

NOTE: This is an essay I wrote as an undergraduate at the University of Utah almost thirty years ago. I am republishing it here as a remembrance of my favorite professor, Mark Strand, upon the occasion of his passing.

Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live… and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood up upon their feet.

-Ezekiel 37:9, 10

An overwhelming presence of the invisible pervades much of Mark Strand’s poetry, a presence which is manifested as both a life force and as a vital catalyst of self. This presence is breath, an image which recurs repeatedly in Strands work and seems to stand for evidence of the existence and continuation of life, a vehicle or impetus for speech, a shared, universal spirit, and a perpetually pent-up possibility of redemption and renewal. Continue reading