Friday, September 26, 2014

Poetry Friday: The Continuous Life

(photo credit:

I have come to love the poetry of Mark Strand and poems like "The Continuous Life" are the reason.

Lately I find myself spilling the spoiler of a poem's ending. It's my strategy to tempt you to click through and read the entire poem on this busy day, at the end of a busy week in a busy month, which is wedged into a busy year in your busy life. We are a busy people. But I love to stop and ask myself what I'm  busy with, and does it matter?

Strand (I am learning, as I read more about him) was long preoccupied with the darkness and meaninglessness of life, though I find his wry response, recounted in this bio piece at the Poetry Foundation, amusing:
Strand’s early collections of poetry, including Reasons for Moving (1968), made his reputation as a dark, brooding poet haunted by death, but Strand himself does not find them “especially dark,” he told Thomas. “I find them evenly lit,” he continued.
Perhaps the distribution of light became a constant with his 1990 collection entitled The Continuous Life. In the same Poetry Foundation article mentioned above, I learned:
Strand published The Continuous Life, his first book of poems in a decade, in 1990. In the New York Times Book Review, Alfred Corn commented that the book “doesn’t strike me so much as a capstone of Mr. Strand’s career as one more turning in his development.” Corn pointed to changes in meter, diction and point of view. “This is a poetry written, as it were, in the shadow of high mountains, and touched with their grandeur,” he concluded.  

You be the judge. If you aren't too busy.

The Continuous Life 
by Mark Strand

                            ...Say that each of you tries
To keep busy, learning to lean down close and hear
The careless breathing of earth and feel its available
Languor come over you, wave after wave, sending
Small tremors of love through your brief,
Undeniable selves, into your days, and beyond.


Read the entire poem here, at The Writer's Almanac.


Laura Salas has the round up at Writing the World for Kids.


Ruth said...

Oh, Karen, this is so good, and so much what I needed to read. Thank you.

jan godown annino said...

I especially liked:

"Your worship of household chores has barely begun."

Thank you for introducing me to a poet I didn't know.

And although I've enjoyed hearing Garrison Keillor three times in person, I didn't know about The Writer's Almanac.

So more appreciations, Karen.

Wishing you an unbusy weekend.

Himself said...

Reminds me for all the word of "Lucinda Matlock" from Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology

I WENT to the dances at Chandlerville,
And played snap-out at Winchester.
One time we changed partners,
Driving home in the moonlight of middle June,
And then I found Davis. 5
We were married and lived together for seventy years,
Enjoying, working, raising the twelve children,
Eight of whom we lost
Ere I had reached the age of sixty.
I spun, I wove, I kept the house, I nursed the sick, 10
I made the garden, and for holiday
Rambled over the fields where sang the larks,
And by Spoon River gathering many a shell,
And many a flower and medicinal weed—
Shouting to the wooded hills, singing to the green valleys. 15
At ninety-six I had lived enough, that is all,
And passed to a sweet repose.
What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness,
Anger, discontent and drooping hopes?
Degenerate sons and daughters, 20
Life is too strong for you—
It takes life to love Life.

laurasalas said...

I admit if I weren't the PF Host, I probably would not have read this longer poem. I love very short poems, and large blocks of text like this poem usually make me click the Back button. But, not wanting to be derelict in my duties :>) I turned off the music and began to read the poem aloud. I was choking up before getting halfway through. So...while this is not a style of poetry I'm drawn to, in general, I have to thank you for making me pause and dive into it.

Mary Lee said...

Love this. Bookmarked for re-reading. I think it (like Jeannine Atkins' poem) is talking to the Wendell Berry poem I shared today...

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Thanks, Karen, for convincing me to stop and become "unbusy" for just a few moments.

LInda Baie said...

Thank you Karen for sharing more about Mark Strand. Although many of his poems do not touch young middle school students, some of his words grabbed them & showed what poetry really could do for them. "Eating Poetry" is one. And now you've shared something that grabs me in my 'busy' life. Beautiful!

Karen Edmisten said...

So happy to see this one resonating with you all!
Atticus, I agree and see what you mean about Lucinda Matlock.

Bridget Magee said...

I am not familiar with Strand's poetry - thank you for the introduction. I will look for more of his work. =)

Karen Edmisten said...

Hope you enjoy him, Bridget!