Friday, January 19, 2007

Mark Strand's Man and Camel

I just read Mark Strand's new collection of poems, Man and Camel. It's a good collection, perhaps a little lopsided, with the stronger poems near the front.

I think Strand is at his best when he's dealing with the tangibly strange--the poems that draw you in like a story, then lead you to unexpected places. "A man leaves for the next town to pick up a cake," goes the first line of "Cake." "People Walking Through the Night" begins, "They carried what they had in garbage bags and knapsacks." Strand has written fiction (peculiar fiction) and understands suspense--he's like a guy walking toward you with a birthday present poorly concealed behind his back. His poems like to pretend to be simple.

My favorite of the bunch is "Storm." "On the night of our house arrest / a howling wind tore through the streets," it begins, and ends with the narrator fleeing his home:

I ran downstairs and called
for my horse. "To the sea," I whispered, and off
we went and how quick we were, my horse and I,
riding over the fresh green fields, as if to our freedom.

You can almost make yourself miss that "as if"...but not quite.

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