Fellow writers celebrate poetic mastery in work of Mark StrandBy Jennifer Carnig
Mark Strand, the Andrew MacLeish Distinguished Service Professor in the Committee on Social Thought, has received the 2004 Wallace Stevens Award, an honor bestowed by the Academy of American Poets, which carries with it a $100,000 prize.
A panel of poets selects a recipient for this annual award, which recognizes outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry. Though Strand is no stranger to such attention—he served as the poet laureate of the United States from 1990 to 1991, was the recipient of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and has won three National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and a MacArthur fellowship—he said this award is particularly special to him because it comes from a panel of his peers.
“It’s a very sweet award, there’s no doubt about that,” Strand said. “It’s so meaningful to know that you’re thought well enough of by your peers that they think you deserve something like this.”
Strand, who has been a member of the University’s faculty for seven years, said being associated with the award’s namesake, Wallace Stevens, also is humbling. Stevens is one of the major American poets of the 20th century.
“He’s been a constant influence on me,” Strand said. “When I began writing poetry, he’s the poet I wanted most to sound like. His work means a great deal to me.”
Strand, coincidentally, is teaching a seminar on Stevens this quarter.
“Teaching here is great because my students are just brilliant,” he said. “I also think it’s important that they learn to read poetry because fewer and fewer people are doing so, so it has become increasingly important that it be taught.”
In addition to his work with students, Strand also is completing a manuscript of poems he hopes to have published by summer 2006. His last work, 1998’s Blizzard of One, is the piece for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
Strand is the author of nine other books of poetry, as well as three children’s books. His translations include The Owl’s Insomnia, a selection of Rafael Alberti’s poems, and Traveling in the Family, a selection of Carlos Drummond de Andrade’s poems. He also has published numerous articles and essays on painting and photography, and three books on painting: The Art of the Real, William Bailey and Hopper.
Strand will deliver the Divinity School’s annual John Nuveen Lecture at 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4, in Swift Lecture Hall. He will travel to New York Friday, Nov. 15, to accept his prize in a ceremony with the Academy of American Poets.