S Is for Something: Mark Strand and Artistic Identity

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

A Conversation with Jill McCorkle

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Good Lord the Light

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Peacock Feathers

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Lice

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Dutch Flower Painting from the 1670s

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

The Lover

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

P Is for Permission

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Diorama

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Advent

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Michael

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Going

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

M Is for Mouse

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

G Is for Genius

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Unless to Spy My Shadow in the Sun

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Eve of Janus Debutante Ball

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

The Curses: Part I

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

The State of Letters

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Engrams, California

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Machado de Assis at the Rio Olympics

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

The Rareness of Poetry: On Christian Wiman

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Trump’s Literacy

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Hillary and the Grand Inquisitor

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

From La Ribera

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Fire Sermon

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

The King of Dauphin Island

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

The Okiedoke

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Townie

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Poetry

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Clearing

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

The Dark Waters

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

The Dollhouses of the Dead

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Moishe’s Horse

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Revelation

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Danzig 1932

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

The Loon’s Cry

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

The Riddle

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

The Return

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

A Sentimental Delusion

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Listening to the Earth

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

The Catch

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

The Coblins

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Departure of the Ghost

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Description Without Place

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

Expansion and the Philosophy of Power

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

The Legend of the One-Eyed Man

Those of us who got to spend time with the poet Mark Strand, summer after summer, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, will recognize the tongue-in-cheek tone of the following remark: “It is sometimes—but not always—nice to think that people may be talking about you when you are not present, that you are the subject of a conversation you have not steered in your direction and whose evolution depends on your absence. This is what happens to the famous. And to the dead. They can be the life of the party and never show up.”

Mark Strand was one of the least explicitly autobiographical poets of our time—he hardly ever revealed the literal, factual details of his life beyond the unsurprising back story that he had some parents, a sister, some wives, and some children—but he was nonetheless always writing about his own sensibility, which accommodated knowledge of himself as the life of the party. On the other hand, he was obsessed with the idea of not showing up—with being one whose absence was noted, or who turned absence on its head. “In a field / I am the absence of field,” he wrote in the early, over-anthologized poem “Keeping Things Whole,” which every newspaper reliably quoted when, to the sorrow of us all, he died in 2014.

Some of us were lucky enough to be at Sewanee in 2012, when Strand delivered something just for us—a craft lecture he wittily called “On Nothing.” In it he made a distinction between nothing and nothingness—the latter being something a little too big to count as nothing. Nothingness, in other words, was a concept, a thing about nothing rather than actually nothing. He wrote me a few times as he was composing this talk and boasted amusingly about how short it was. “Dear Mary Jo,” one email went, “I wrote my talk and it is fairly peculiar. I had hoped for greater peculiarity, but I kept getting bogged down. Anyway, I can now forget about it until I give it.” Forgetfulness was also big with Strand. He wrote a wonderful poem in the 1990s called “Always” in which some people—“the great forgetters”—sit around a table forgetting things one by one: North and South America, the moon, the grass, the trees. Finally they forget down to absolutely nothing: a condition that occasioned, in the poem’s concluding line, “the blaze of promise everywhere.” Surely Mark Strand knew he would be one of the remembered poets of our age, that the “nothings” wouldn’t include him. Why? One reason is that he was so entertaining on the subject of nothing.

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