April 15, 1999
Vol. 18 No. 14

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    [mark strand]
    Mark Strand, Professor on the Committee on Social Thought, is the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry winner.

    Strand wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

    By Theresa Carson
    News Office

    To Mark Strand, recipient of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, simple moments––and sometimes words and phrases––are the origins of ideas.

    While in New York City earlier this week, he experienced poignant moments: his 65th birthday; the memorial service for his long-time editor, Harry Ford; and news of the Pulitzer. Strand, Professor on the Committee on Social Thought, was at his publishers, Alfred A. Knopf, when he heard that Blizzard of One, a collection of poems, received the illustrious prize.

    “I consider myself a lucky guy,” Strand said with the gentle voice of a thankful man.

    Robert Pippin, the Raymond W. and Martha Hilpert Gruner Distinguished Service Professor and Chair of the Committee on Social Thought, said, “The prize reflects an appropriate acknowledgment that he wrote last year a simply exceptional book of verse, Blizzard of One.”

    The Pulitzer is one of several prizes that celebrate Strand’s writing ability. In 1975, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, followed by two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships in 1977 and 1986. In 1987, he received a MacArthur Fellowship, and from 1990 until 1991, he served as the fourth U.S. poet laureate.

    In addition to Blizzard of One, Strand has written eight other books of poetry, three children’s books, three art monographs, a comic meditation on the idea of immortality and a collection of stories. He has translated several Spanish works and has edited four anthologies.

    Strand, who joined the University faculty in the spring of 1998, described his inspiration as “a word or a phrase or less than that. It doesn’t have to be an idea but a sense of urgency about wanting to write.

    “Pretty soon, you have a few words, and tomorrow comes, and by the end of the week, you have a few lines,” he said. “The process of writing is discovering what you want to say and being sure you’re saying it in the best possible way you can.”

    The following poem, “A Piece of the Storm,” is one that appears in Strand’s collection that won the Pulitzer Prize, Blizzard of One.

    From the shadow of domes in the city of domes,
    A snowflake, a blizzard of one, weightless, entered your room
    And made its way to the arm of the chair where you, looking up
    From your book, saw it the moment it landed. That’s all
    There was to it. No more than a solemn waking
    To brevity, to the lifting and falling away of attention, swiftly,
    A time between times, a flowerless funeral. No more than that
    Except for the feeling that this piece of the storm,
    Which turned into nothing before your eyes, would come back,
    That someone years hence, sitting as you are now, might say:
    “It’s time. The air is ready. The sky has an opening.”