Mark Strand's poetry certainly belongs in our Top 100 list, and I couldn't think of a better entry than "The New Poetry Handbook" - which has gained a wide audience over the years. It's a tongue in cheek, delightful look at the plight of the being of an American Poet.
Mark Strand was born in Canada (Prince Edward Island) in 1934, and spent his formative years moving from location to location in Canada and the United States as well as Central and South America (to name a few places). As a result, Strand matured feeling that he was "from nowhere" so to speak. His summers were spent in Canada on Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia and it is there that he developed his home roots or basic "home identity". Strand began his collegiate career as a painter, but soon found a talent in poetry, citing such influences as Wallace Stevens, and the surrealist influences in his poetry derives from admiration of Max Ernst, de Cherico, and Rene Magritte.
Strand won the Pulitzer prize for Poetry in 1999 for his collection "Blizzard of One", and was appointed Poet Laureate in 1990. In his own words, 1971: "I feel very much a part of a new international style that has a lot to
do with plainness of diction, a certain reliance on surrealist
techniques, and a strong narrative element."
Enjoy this remarkable poem by Mark Strand!
The New Poetry Handbook
by Mark Strand
1 If a man understands a poem,
he shall have troubles.
2 If a man lives with a poem,
he shall die lonely.
3 If a man lives with two poems,
he shall be unfaithful to one.
4 If a man conceives of a poem,
he shall have one less child.
5 If a man conceives of two poems,
he shall have two children less.
6 If a man wears a crown on his head as he writes,
he shall be found out.
7 If a man wears no crown on his head as he writes,
he shall deceive no one but himself.
8 If a man gets angry at a poem,
he shall be scorned by men.
9 If a man continues to be angry at a poem,
he shall be scorned by women.
10 If a man publicly denounces poetry,
his shoes will fill with urine.
11 If a man gives up poetry for power,
he shall have lots of power.
12 If a man brags about his poems,
he shall be loved by fools.
13 If a man brags about his poems and loves fools,
he shall write no more.
14 If a man craves attention because of his poems,
he shall be like a jackass in moonlight.
15 If a man writes a poem and praises the poem of a fellow,
he shall have a beautiful mistress.
16 If a man writes a poem and praises the poem of a fellow overly,
he shall drive his mistress away.
17 If a man claims the poem of another,
his heart shall double in size.
18 If a man lets his poems go naked,
he shall fear death.
19 If a man fears death,
he shall be saved by his poems.
20 If a man does not fear death,
he may or may not be saved by his poems.
21 If a man finishes a poem,
he shall bathe in the blank wake of his passion
and be kissed by white paper.